An Alzheimer's disease diagnosis can be scary—it can be a confirmation of your fears—but it's important to get a doctor involved as early as possible.

By having an official Alzheimer's disease diagnosis, you open the door to begin treating the symptoms and to receive support from various groups in your community.

A good place to start the Alzheimer's diagnostic process is with the person's primary doctor. The doctor may order screening tests and may give an initial diagnosis. Then the doctor may refer the person to a specialized center for memory evaluation, or to a neurologist (a nervous system specialist), geriatrician (a specialist in old age), or a psychiatrist for additional testing to be sure the diagnosis is correct.

At diagnostic centers, doctors can generally determine whether a person has Alzheimer's disease after a thorough evaluation.

An evaluation may include tests such as:

  • Medical history
  • Psychological tests
  • Medical tests
  • Physical examination
  • Brain scans
  • Information from the person with the illness and from someone who knows the patient well, who can describe changes that have occurred

Visiting a doctor as soon as you notice any signs of Alzheimer's disease can make a big difference in your future and the patient's future. In the early stages, the patient should still be able to participate in decisions about their care, which can relieve you of the burden of some tough decisions. You will also learn about the Alzheimer's resources and treatments that are available to you right away, helping smooth the transition into caregiving.

From The Comfort of Home for Alzheimer's Disease: A Guide for Caregivers,
CareTrust Publications © 2008.

 
 
 

In this clip from The Caregivers Documentary, Maureen discusses feeling obligated to take care of her mom after her mom's Alzheimer's diagnosis.

 
 
 

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