It is not uncommon to feel unease about seeing a doctor and facing a diagnosis. Receiving an early diagnosis does however have many potential benefits and it is therefore important to see a doctor if you notice that you, or someone you care about, is showing signs of dementia. Being diagnosed early will help with getting the right treatment and support as well as enable the person diagnosed to make their own decisions about their future.
While many diseases can be determined by a simple blood test, diagnosing dementia is more difficult and calls for a series of tests. Receiving a diagnosis can therefore take everything from a few weeks to several months. Remember that the symptoms does not necessarily have to be caused by a dementia disease, and might have treatable causes. A dementia assessment is partly about ruling out other possible causes.
The first step is always to go see a doctor. Bring a close family member or friend along to the doctors visit, they can help provide the doctors with information and act as support for the person seeking help. It can also be a good idea to bring a list of medicines with you. The doctor might asses you themselves or help referring you to a specialist.
Personal and medical history
The doctor will usually ask you about your medical history. Some common questions could be if dementia exists in your family, what symptoms you are displaying and when they started showing. They might also ask some questions to someone in the family as they often have valuable information that can help diagnosing dementia.
A physical examination is often done to rule our other possible causes such as side effects from drugs, vitamin deficiency or infection. Blood tests, urine tests and CT scan can help rule out several of these causes.
There are several cognitive tests to help evaluating memory and cognitive skills. Mini-mental Status Examination (MMSE) is commonly used to test functions such as memory, language, orientation and spatial skills.
Questions to keep in mind
- What tests will be made?
- Will there be any costs involved?
- How long will you have to wait for test results?
- What will happen after you get the results?