I have spent eight years promoting the importance of early diagnosis and treatment of dementia and am certain that misinformation, denial, and untrained GP’s are still the biggest factors preventing families from getting elderly loved ones properly evaluated. The mild and intermittently odd behaviors that gradually increase year after year continue to get chalked up to advancing age and nothing more. And even when it becomes very apparent that something is wrong, families delay dealing with it, because it is scary for them to think about end of life issues. And then when something major happens and the GP finally sees the senior about it for ten minutes (“What day is it? What time is it? Who is the governor?”), that day the elder is often sharp as a tack.
I spent a year taking my elderly father to doctors who weren’t trained on how to uncover early-stage dementia, namely Alzheimer’s. Once I finally got to the right doctors (a team of neurologists specialized in dementia) who did a battery of blood, neurological tests, memory test and PET scans—and who ruled out the many reversible dementias such as a B-12, folate and thyroid deficiency, my jaw hit the floor when he was finally diagnosed. I was so furious that none of the many healthcare professionals we had come into contact with previously had not properly directed us on how to get an accurate diagnosis.
To combat this ongoing problem, I strongly suggest that families know the Mini-Mental State Exam (http://www.bami.us/MiniMental.htm), so they can test their elderly loved ones at home whenever they notice any of the Warning Signs of Alzheimer's. By understanding one of the ways that dementia is evaluated and noticing a loved one’s test scores getting progressively worse over months of testing, the denial factor lessons. And, armed with the results of these tests, it is much easier to get a referral from the GP to see a dementia specialist for further extensive testing.
Learn more about Jacqueline, an international speaker, radio host, and bestselling author at ElderRage.com
Published On: September 22, 2008