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In Order To Receive Appropriate Treatment
Dementia Must First be Given
An Appropriate Diagnosis

As family members and patients, we all would like a simple test for dementia. Treatment can not begin before an assessment is made. Something easy, that can tell us if your spouse or aging parent has dementia or not. There are a variety of different tests. There are several tools that a health care provider can utilize to tell if your loved one has symptoms of dementia. Many times the family members are the first to notice the subtle dementia signs and symptoms.

It is important that family members understand that every test has its strengths and its weaknesses. I find many family members become upset, because their loved one passed the test, when clearly they cannot function at home with activities of daily living. There have been plenty of times when the family member started to question, if they were going crazy or the family member was putting on an act. Really! Not to worry. If this happens to you, there is an explanation for this.

The accuracy of tests for dementia depends on a variety of factors, including:

  • The type of dementia. There are a variety of different dementia types
  • The areas of the brain affected. The affected areas of the brain will affect the symptoms of dementia
  • The environment the test is administered
  • The skill of the person in administering and evaluating the test
  • The behavior of the patient during the test (cooperation versus uncooperative)
  • The presence of other illnesses or diseases that can affect the validity of the test
  • The causes of dementia
  • Presence of challenging behaviors/distractions at the time of the test
  • The time of day (morning is often the best time)
  • Effects of medications, hydration and nutrition status, etc.

The first step to an accurate diagnosis is a careful history. Is the person exhibiting dementia- like behaviors that can be ruled out that are reversible, through testing done by CAT scans, MRI’s, and PET scans. These diagnostic tests can help rule out or identify areas of the brain that may be affected and cause one of the various dementia types.

There are cognitive function tests that are available and given to patients along with the lab tests, the complete medical history, the MRI’s, CAT scans and physical. These, in conjunction, help to give the health care provider the ability to give an accurate diagnosis. These cognitive function tests should NOT be utilized without the benefit of all the other tests. As a stand alone test they do not give a complete picture of the person as a whole. It does not give a person the opportunity for an appropriate diagnosis and proper treatment.

I am going to make available to you some cognitive tests that anyone can take, or give.

These tests are for educational or reference purposes only. These tests are not meant to replace seeing your health care provider. As always, if you have questions or concerns, please see the patient's physician.

It is important to understand that these tests are utilized as screening tools or assessment tools.

There are many things that may affect the outcome of these tests. The inability to read, the inability to read or understand English, lack of education, cultural issues, health issues can influence the results of these tests. The important thing to understand is these tests may identify some possible problems that need follow-up and treatment by the appropriate health care provider.

Feel free to conduct these tests on yourself. Or if the individual you are caring for has been given a diagnosis of one of the various dementia types, you may want to see if the condition has progressed. It is important to understand, that if you have any questions, you should contact your health care provider. Treatment of dementia should be supervised by a professional health care provider.

Here is a list of the tests:
I will take time to introduce you to each test and explain what skills or cognitive deficits each one is measuring.

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