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Diagnosis and Living Well

The Importance of the Diagnosis

Dementia can present itself with a wide variety of symptoms. There are 10 typical warning signs for dementia. If you, a family member or a friend are experiencing any of these symptoms it is important to consult your doctor for a thorough assessment. A person living with dementia will usually experience two or more of these symptoms and they would be severe enough to interfere with daily life.
There is no single diagnostic test for dementia. Doctors use a series of comprehensive assessments and testing to eliminate other possible causes. The assessments and tests include: personal history, physical examination, cognitive testing, and additional laboratory testing.

Depending on the results of the initial assessment brain scans may also be used to inform the diagnosis. These can greatly help in differentiating which type of dementia is implicated. Having a correct diagnosis improves the treatment and care plan that can be offered to the person with dementia, their caregiver and their family members.

Early diagnosis is crucial. Symptoms of dementia can be similar to symptoms of other conditions such as depression or delirium. Other chronic conditions such as hyper/hypothyroidism, heart disease, and diabetes need to be assessed. Many of these other chronic conditions can be treated. The earlier a treatment can be given, the more likely health benefits may be realized.

Finding the cause of the symptoms is important and allows people to:
- Understand the source of the symptoms
- Receive appropriate treatment and care planning
- Access advice, information and support
- Plan for the future

Living Well

Researchers are working to identify risk factors associated with dementia and to find ways of modifying those factors.  

Here is a list of risk factors that have been associated with developing dementia:

  • Genetic Predisposition
  • Age
  • Sex (female)
  • Low levels of formal education
  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Problems with cholesterol
  • Obesity and lack of physical activity 
  • Diabetes
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Head injuries
  • Social isolation
  • Hearing loss

There are some factors that you cannot change, but some that you can. Therefore, the best prevention is to modify or work on those risk factors that you can influence/ risks factors that are modifiable. It is believed that reducing these risk factors may increase your brain and cognitive reserve. 

There is also growing evidence that adopting key lifestyle habits can help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. Here are eight ways you can be brain healthy. It is never too early or too late to start:

Below are some guides written by people living with dementia for people living with dementia

Enhancing Wellness - Information on maintaining physical well-being

Enhancing Communication - Discusses the importance of verbal and non-verbal communication

Living Safely - Read about safety concerns related to driving, safety at home, and more

Safety When Out and About - Learn about strategies to help you when out from getting lost

Living and Transforming with Loss and Grief - This guide provides tips and strategies offered by persons with dementia and their partners in care in the hope that these will help others experiencing feelings of loss and grief

 

The By Us For Us© Guides (BUFU guides) are a series of guides created by a group of talented and passionate people living with dementia and care partners. The guides are designed to provide people living with dementia and their care partners the necessary tools to enhance their well-being and manage daily challenges. What makes these guides unique is that they are created BY people living with dementia and care partners, FOR people living with dementia and care partners. 

We Would also like to thank Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging, Murray Alzheimer Research and Education Program - for allowing us to share the BUFU Guides. For more information visit their site here.

 

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