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If you have a loved one who is having trouble remembering things, you may be wondering where to go for help. There is a lot of information online about recognizing the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s, but it’s not always clear as to how the disease is diagnosed. What doctor should you make an appointment with? What questions should you ask?

The main reason why there is confusion surrounding the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is because there is no definitive method. It’s not until after a person has died and a brain autopsy can be done that a diagnosis can be made. That being said, a physician can make a fairly accurate diagnosis by conducting a series of tests.

What Tests are Used to Diagnose Alzheimer’s?

Some of the tests used to make a diagnosis include:

  • Report of symptoms. A list of symptoms is gathered from you and your loved one.
  • Mental status exam. Cognitive functioning is tested. The most common exam is the Mini Mental State Exam, which includes calculation, memory and communication.
  • Imaging tests. Brain changes are observed through various imaging techniques such as CT scans, MRIs or PET scans.
  • Lab testing. Some physicians ask for blood work or urine samples to rule out certain infections that can cause memory loss or confusion.

Which Doctors Diagnose Alzheimer’s?

Many types of doctors are qualified to diagnose Alzheimer’s.

  • General practitioner
  • Neurologist
  • Psychologist
  • Geropsychiatrist

When meeting with the doctor, make the most of the appointment by coming prepared with a list of questions. Also write down the things you notice in your loved one that concerns you. This information is crucial for making an accurate diagnosis.

Is a Diagnosis Necessary?

So why is it important to get diagnosed when there is no cure for Alzheimer’s? Some people say that they would rather not know if their loved one had Alzheimer’s, but there are benefits in knowing.

  • Early treatment. There are medications available for slowing the progression of the disease. They may be helpful for managing the symptoms in your loved one.
  • More control. Early detection allows you and your loved one to plan for the future. For instance, do they want home care or assisted living?
  • Better coping. If you know that your loved one has Alzheimer’s, you can get educated on the disease, which will allow you to be better prepared as it progresses.

If you are worried about a loved one, make an appointment to speak with their doctor. There are tests and ways to determine if your loved one has Alzheimer’s, and the doctor can then guide you in the right direction.