Alzheimer’s disease isn’t part of normal aging. If you think you or a loved one might be showing symptoms of the disease, it’s important to see a doctor to get a diagnosis. Some warning signs to get checked are memory loss, behavior changes, or trouble with speech and decision-making.
But Alzheimer’s has many of the same symptoms as other common conditions, too. Those include depression, poor nutrition, and taking medications that don’t work well together. A doctor can find out if the symptoms are happening because of Alzheimer’s or due to something else that’s easier to treat.
A dementia diagnosis can be devastating -- not only for the person with the disease, but for those who love him, too. “There’s a grieving that occurs. You haven’t lost your loved one, but the person you know is going to change,” says Rosanne M. Leipzig, MD, professor of geriatric medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
If you or someone close to you has Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia, here are six steps to help you deal with the disease now and in the future.
An early and accurate diagnosis can also give you or your loved one time to plan for the future. You can start using some medicines that help people in the earlier stages of Alzheimer's control some of their symptoms for a while as well. On average, these drugs keep symptoms from getting worse for about 6 to 12 months in about half of the people who take them.
Getting a Diagnosis
Doctors can’t definitely diagnose Alzheimer's disease until after death, when they can closely examine the brain under a microscope. But they can use tests to rule out other conditions that might cause the same symptoms.
Here’s what you can expect when you or your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Your doctor will do a physical exam and ask questions about your past and current health. He’ll want to know:
Your symptoms, including any trouble you have with everyday tasks
Other medical conditions you have now or had before