How quickly dementia progresses depends on what is causing it and the area of the brain that is affected. Some types of dementia progress slowly over several years. Other types may progress more rapidly.
A health professional may evaluate the day-to-day functioning of a person with Alzheimer's disease by asking questions and observing the person. This often is done informally during the medical history and physical exam. Sometimes the health professional may use a more formal functional status exam to evaluate a person's ability to perform daily activities. A functional status exam may also ...
Whether a person with Alzheimer's disease or another dementia should still be allowed to drive is a common dilemma faced by people with the disease and their caregivers. Taking away driving privileges may reduce the person's sense of independence and increase dependence on family and friends. But it is extremely important to prevent the person from driving when it is no longer safe. The ...
Certain problems can be warning signs of dementia. Talk to a doctor if you, a friend, or a family member has been having increased difficulty with any of the following activities: Learning and retaining new information (forgetting recent events and appointments or frequently misplacing objects)Handling complex tasks, like balancing a checkbookKnowing what to do when problems come up (such as knowing what to do if the bathroom is flooded) and using good judgment (for example, showing a new disregard for the rules of social conduct and doing or saying things that are inappropriate)Finding his or her way around familiar places, driving to and from places he or she knows well (for example, getting lost when walking or driving from the house to the store a few blocks away)Finding the right words to say what he or she wants to sayUnderstanding and responding to what he or she sees and hearsActing more irritable or suspicious than usual, or withdrawing from conversation and activityA person
A person's medical history and a physical exam are important parts of the evaluation when the person has symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer's disease.Medical historyThe doctor will ask questions during a medical history to assess a person's past and current overall health and to find out how well the person functions. This process may be complicated if the person isn't able to remember important parts of his or her medical history or isn't aware of the memory loss. A family member can be very helpful in providing information about the person's symptoms, such as when the symptoms were first noticed, how quickly they developed, and whether they have continued to get worse.Other important information in a medical history includes: Other medical problems the person has or has had, such as a stroke, Parkinson's disease, HIV infection, depression, a head injury, heart disease, or lipid disorders (problems with cholesterol levels). In some cases, illnesses can cause confusion or other signs
Doctors diagnose the cause of dementia by asking questions about the person's medical history and doing a physical exam, a mental status exam, and lab and imaging tests. Tests can help the doctor learn whether dementia is caused by a treatable condition.
Some people have memory loss but do not have dementia. They have what is known as mild cognitive impairment, a middle ground between normal aging and dementia. People with this condition are at risk for developing dementia; but not all people with mild cognitive impairment will progress to dementia.People with mild cognitive impairment often know that they have lost memory, and tests can confirm some loss. But they have normal overall mental functioning and can carry out normal activities of daily living.Doctors should evaluate people with memory loss, and those with mild cognitive impairment should be monitored because of their risk for developing dementia. Several studies are being done to see whether medicine can delay dementia in people who have mild cognitive impairment.