What to expect when getting Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis

DAYTON — Currently, there is no single test that can show whether a person has Alzheimer’s disease, although researchers are getting closer to having an available blood biomarker.

Today diagnosing Alzheimer’s requires careful medical evaluation, including:

• A thorough medical history

• Mental status testing

• A physical and neurological exam

• Tests (such as blood tests and brain imaging) to rule out other causes of dementia-like symptoms.

There is great benefit to getting an early diagnosis. While there is not a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, medications may reduce symptoms or provide cognitive clarity for some.

Getting a medical workup

During the medical workup, your health care provider will review your medical history. He or she will want to know about any current and past illnesses, as well as any medications you are taking. The doctor will also ask about key medical conditions affecting other family members, including whether they may have had Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias.

Mental status testing

This part evaluates memory, ability to solve simple problems and other thinking skills. Such tests give an overall sense of whether a person is aware of symptoms, knows where he or she is, and can remember a short list of words or follow instructions. The mini-mental state exam and mini-cog test are two commonly used tests.

Neurological exam

During a neurological exam, the physician will closely evaluate the person for problems that may signal brain disorders other than Alzheimer’s. The doctor will look for signs of small or large strokes, Parkinson’s disease, brain tumors, fluid accumulation on the brain, and other illnesses that may impair memory or thinking.