Diagnosing dementia, along with which type of dementia somebody has, is important. It will ensure that the person can get the right support and treatments for their needs and can plan for their future. If you have concerns or suspect that your parents or elderly friends are showing symptoms of dementia, their GP is the first person to contact.
If the GP also suspects dementia, then they will be referred to a memory clinic or specialist. It is here where they will be able to get an accurate diagnosis of the dementia. These specialists may include old age psychiatrists, geriatricians, neurologists, clinical psychologists and memory nurses.
Early Signs of Dementia
Making sure our loved ones are healthy both physically and mentally is really important, so it is essential that we look out for early signs and symptoms. Dementia does not always show in the same way for everybody, factors such as personality, general health and social situation are all important factors in determining the impact of the dementia.
Although it affects people differently, the most common symptoms of dementia are:
- Memory Loss
- Problems with speech and reading
- Disorientation of place and time
- Issues with keeping track of things
- Misplacing items
- Changes in mood, behaviour and personality
- Becoming confused easily
We also put together a list of the top 10 early signs of dementia, which you can take a look at in more detail.
Tests for Diagnosing Dementia
There are different tests available to help with diagnosing dementia, people with symptoms are often given various questionnaires to help pick up on certain aspects of dementia.
Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE)
This is a widely used test which is used to assess a number of different mental abilities, including:
- Short and long term memory
- Attention Span
- Language and communication skills
- Ability to plan
- Ability to understand instructions
This examination is not used to directly test for dementia, however it is used to assess the level of mental impairment that the individual with dementia may have. This may be continued over different time points to check for any deterioration.
Blood tests for Dementia
If it is suspected that the person has dementia, the specialist may issue a blood test to check their overall level of health. These blood tests can also rule out other conditions which could be causing their symptoms.
Dementia brain Scans
Once other simpler tests such as the MMSE and Blood test have ruled out any other conditions, then the specialist may issue a brain scan. There are two different scans that can be issued, the first is a CT scan, this will look to make sure that it is not a stroke or brain tumour that is causing the symptoms, but will not say if the person has dementia. The second type of scan is a MRI scan, this will be able to confirm a diagnosis of dementia by looking at the structure of the brain.
Diagnosing dementia, what next?
Once a diagnosis has been given – you will have many questions about the short term and long term future. It’s important that to ask the doctor about local services that can help support the family. Plus, your parents may be entitled to financial benefits and other types of support
We know how it feels when a loved one gets diagnosed with dementia, it feels like an enormous weight has been dropped on your life. Don’t panic! There is lots of information out there to help you fully understand dementia and how to help those who have it. We have an entire section on dementia with information full to give you everything you need to know from understanding dementia, the treatments to help, to helping someone with dementia to eat more! Have a read below at our resources.
We understand that dementia has a whole impact on the entire family, so take a read of our guide where we can give you the important things you really need to know.
Remember that you are not alone, there are people that can help and have bounds of information and experience. You can share your experience on our Agespace Forum.