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  • Writer's pictureKathryn Watson

Diagnosing Dementia- It's Harder Than You Think


This is probably one of the most difficult diseases to diagnose. It is something many of us avoid talking about. It happens to other people. It happens to other families,not to our family. That is until we are forced to face the fact that dementia has reared it's ugly head in our home.

Dementia doesn't follow a straight line progression. Rather, it ebbs and flows in ways that confuse and bewilder families that are trying to understand what is happening.

"Yesterday Mom was extremely confused and could not figure out what to do with the toaster. Today she is normal again. She is acting like her old self. Did I imagine what happened yesterday? Was she just putting on an act to confuse and manipulate me?" ! Sue S. Confused Daughter

Sue is not alone. Families everywhere are struggling to find answers. Often they turn to Mom's Family Doctor or Internist. The problem is most of these docs have very little is any training in dementia diagnosis.

"We brought mom to her doctor. I gave him a letter I had typed outlining all of the things that were happening. Losing expensive items, like jewelry. Reporting the loss to the police as a robbery and then finding the items in a sock in her drawer. Missing important appointments. The time she ordered Dish TV and internet even though she did not have a computer. Letting the Dish installer into her home when she didn't know who he was or why he was there. The list went on with the changes we noticed. So the doctor gave her a test. A Mini Mental Test. Well guess what. When she found out he was giving her a test, she pulled up her big girl panties and passed with flying colors. The doctor told me she seemed fine! I wanted to scream,She is not fine!" ~ Kay- Daughter In Law trying to help.

So how do you diagnose this dreadful disease?

If you think there is a problem most of the time you are right. If Mom's doctor is not helpful you may have to get another opinion. Not sure? Here are some early signs that indicate the need for an evaluation.

  • Diminished short term memory ( asking the same question over and over)

  • Difficulty finding words to finish sentences

  • Poor Judgement

  • Personality Changes

  • Emotional Instability

  • Mood Swings

  • Decline in ability to perform activities of daily living

Join a Support Group For Family Caregivers

This is a great place to start. You will meet others who have experienced the same challenges you are going through. You will discover that you are not alone. And one of the biggest benefits will be the resources that you will learn about. There will be people there who can refer you to doctors who know how to properly diagnose dementia and who understand what you are experiencing. You will find out about financial resources in your community that can help. The Alzheimer's Association of Houston and Southeast Texas can help you to find a support group near you.

Pat Mack has been helping families make the right decisions to care for someone they love since 1997. Email Her Today for more information.

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