It is very important for anyone with memory or thinking problems to get properly assessed by a medical professional before diagnosing dementia. Such problems may be caused by a treatable condition like depression or infection, and not necessarily dementia. Finding out the cause allows the person to get the appropriate treatment. If the problems are due to dementia, a diagnosis has many benefits to the person. It provides an explanation for the symptoms, gives them access to the right treatment, support and guidance, and it allows them to begin to prepare for the future.
Knowing which type of dementia a person has is important, because it may allow the person to access treatments. Dementia is usually diagnosed by a specialist doctor such as:
- a psychiatrist
- a mental health specialist
- a geriatrician (a doctor who specialises in the health of older people)
- a neurologist (a specialist in nervous system diseases)
Occasionally a GP or a specialist nurse can make the diagnosis, but this depending on their level of expertise and training. There isn’t one single test for dementia. A diagnosis will be based on a combination of:
- History – the doctor talks to the person and someone who knows them well. They cover how their problems developed and how they are affecting their daily life
- A physical examination and tests to exclude other possible causes of the symptoms
- Mental ability tests –some tests will be carried out by a doctor, more thorough tests by a psychologist
- A brain scan, if this is necessary to make the diagnosis.
A common approach is for a GP to make an initial assessment and refer the person on to a memory clinic or specialist for a more thorough assessment. A specialist will have more expertise in dementia and can arrange for more detailed tests and scans if they are needed. The diagnosis will be communicated clearly to the person and those closest to them. There will then be a discussion about what the next steps should be.
For more information about diagnosing dementia and how Barton Park residential care Southport specialist can help contact us today.