There are a whole host of different changes and challenges that seniors face as they continue to grow older, and each of these come to impact seniors’ lives in their own unique ways.
While the majority of the changes that occur throughout the process of aging are just typical aspects of growing older that don’t necessitate a great deal of worry or concern, some changes concerning seniors’ capacity for mental processing, memory, thinking patters, and mood can possibly be indicative of larger overarching concerns that require more exploration and attention from healthcare professionals in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge. Alzheimer’s is a disease that creates symptoms that extend beyond the scope of normal age-related changes, and while it is difficult to think about the difficult reality that Alzheimer’s could be a possibility, it is important that loved-ones and caregivers of seniors take steps towards identifying or ruling out Alzheimer’s as a cause of concerning behaviours.
If You’re Worried
Should you find yourself starting to feel worried or concerned that a senior in your life is exhibiting a set of behaviours or symptoms that seem as though they could be consistent with those known to accompany Alzheimer’s or Dementia, make an appointment to meet with a healthcare professional as promptly as possible. Talking to a doctor who can carry out memory screenings and other relevant tests can help establish a clearer and more well-informed understanding of these symptoms, helping to determine whether a problem exists and, if so, whether that problem is related to Alzheimer’s.
How is Alzheimer’s Diagnosed?
The process of reaching an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can involve multiple methods of testing that work together to best determine whether a senior has possible or probable Alzheimer’s disease, or whether the symptoms and behaviours in question are more likely related to some other cause.
Some of the steps that may come into play throughout the process of diagnosing or ruling out Alzheimer’s include:
- Mental Testing: Tests of memory, problem solving, language, counting, attention, and other aspects of mental processing will be conducted.
- Scans: Brain scans such as CT (computed tomography), PET (positron emission tomography), and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) will be performed to explore the physical manifestation of symptoms within the brain, and help to eliminate other possibilities as causes of these symptoms.
- Interviews with Family Members or Friends: Questions concerning health, existing or past medical problems, abilities, behaviours, personality and mood, or other elements of daily life will be asked to create a fuller understanding of elements of concern and how they are impacting daily life.
- Medical Testing: Standard medical tests of things such as blood and urine will take place to explore or eliminate some alternative possibilities.
Some of these tests may be repeated on multiple occasions to provide doctors with the ability to monitor how an individual’s cognitive function is changing over time.
Problems linked to memory or thinking patterns can be challenging to diagnose because many of the details connected to symptoms and behaviours can present in subtle ways, and also because of the vast amount of variation that exists from one person to the next. For this reason, there can be value in seeking out multiple opinions or talking to multiple doctors and specialists as part of the process of exploring symptoms and behaviours that you think may be linked to Alzheimer’s. Reaching out for multiple opinions is a normal practice when working towards a conclusion about an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Benefits of Early Diagnosis
Should you start to feel concerned about the behaviours of a senior in your life, or about changes that you are noticing in the way they are able to perform and engage in their daily lives, it is important not to delay getting a consultation with a healthcare professional and reaching out for guidance or support. While the progression of Alzheimer’s cannot be stopped or reversed, identifying and diagnosing Alzheimer’s in its earlier stages can create a better opportunity for the implementation and integration of treatments that can help to support the maintenance of abilities and aspects of functioning for a while longer. Acknowledging and accepting an Alzheimer’s diagnosis creates the time and space for seniors and their loved ones to plan for the future and make arrangements such as:
- Safety Arrangements
- Living Arrangements
- Legal Considerations
- Financial Considerations
- Development of Appropriate Health Care Teams and Support Networks
Accepting a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can be an emotionally challenging, overwhelming, and taxing experience for seniors and their loved-ones, but reaching a firm diagnosis can help offer greater insight into certain behaviours, and can place a label on the symptoms that have come to impact aspects of how seniors are functioning in their everyday lives. Best practice is always to seek out the expertise of medical and healthcare professionals whenever new symptoms appear or behaviours begin to change in a significant way. It is only once the necessary testing has taken place and Alzheimer’s has either been ruled out or confirmed that plans and arrangements can be set up to offer seniors the resources, support systems, and structures that they require moving forward.