Frequently Asked Questions
Normal Aging - May forget what she/he ate for lunch
Alzheimer's - Forgets that she/he had lunch
Normal Aging - May not always recall names of friends and relatives, but recognizes them and recalls the names later
Alzheimer's - Doesn't recognize friends and relatives or know their names
Normal Aging - May not remember today's date, but knows the year, month and the day
Alzheimer's - Cannot remember the day of the week, season, year, month or day
It used to be said that the diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease could only be made at autopsy, but that is no longer the case. We now know that if a person has a thorough evaluation by a dementia specialist, the diagnosis can be made with a very high degree of accuracy. There is no single test to diagnose Alzheimer's. A comprehensive evaluation should include the following components:
- History - A thorough medical history must be obtained from the caregiver and the patient.
- Patient & Caregiver Interview - The clinician will meet with the patient and caregiver to get an understanding of their concerns and the changes they have noticed in the patient’s memory, behaviors and cognitive function. Many clinicians will see the patient and caregiver separately to give them the opportunity to speak openly to the doctor or clinician.
- Medical Tests - The doctor or clinician may order blood tests, or urine analysis to rule out other medical conditions.
- Brain Scans - An MRI is preferable but a CT scan is very good for those who cannot have an MRI. Sometimes a physician will also order a newer scan called a PET scan to help differentiate the specific type of dementia.
- Cognitive Testing - Cognitive testing assesses various areas of cognitive function including, visuospatial, language, short term memory, delayed recall, attention, abstract thinking, executive function, orientation and more.
The following are the warning signs for Alzheimer's. Not everyone exhibits all of these, especially early on, and they do not occur in a particular order.
- Asking the same question over and over.
- Repeating the same story, word for word.
- Forgetting activities that were previously done with ease and regularity such as cooking, playing cards or making repairs.
- Losing one’s ability to pay bills or balance one’s checkbook.
- Getting lost in familiar surroundings or misplacing household objects.
- Neglecting to bathe, or wearing the same clothes over and over again while insisting they have taken a bath or that their clothes are still clean.
- Relying on someone else, such as a spouse, to make decisions or answer questions they previously would have handled themselves
There is nothing you can do that will definitely prevent Alzheimer's but there are lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk for Alzheimer’s. Everything that can reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease can also reduce your risk for Alzheimer's or other dementias. Specifically, monitor and manage your cholesterol, blood pressure and weight; and completely avoid use of tobacco products. Research has shown that getting regular physical exercise, eating a healthy diet and getting a good night’s sleep can greatly reduce your risk. Staying socially connected and participating in stimulating cognitive activities may also help reduce your risk.
There are many over-the-counter products claiming to prevent Alzheimer’s or improve brain function. It is important to consult with your doctor or clinician before taking any vitamins, herbals or other supplements.