Diagnosing the condition that is responsible for a person’s dementia can be difficult. A number of things may be needed to identify if a person has dementia. These include:
- tests, for example the Mini Mental State Examination
- scans, for example a CT Scan (computerized axial tomography)
- personal history from person and the person’s relatives
Diagnosing the type is important because:
- It gives an opportunity to take medication which might help. There are some dementia medications which may slow down the course of Alzheimer’s disease. Currently these are Aricept, Exelon and Reminyl and they all work in a similar way.
- It can help a person have an awareness of the likely progression of the disease
- A person can have greater awareness of what their diagnosis means to them
- Where the dementia has a genetic component this information could be helpful to other family members
Whatever type of dementia the person has it is important for a person to be given a diagnosis to provide an opportunity to:
- Plan for the future:
- Recording advance statements and/or advance decisions (where the person with dementia sets out how they want to be cared for in the future, what should happen to their finances and other personal requirements for when they may be too ill to make an informed decision).
- Making Lasting Powers of Attorney for finance or welfare.
- Find out what is available to build support networks and relationships for the person and the person’s family. This may include:
- Local groups such as ‘singing for the brain’
- Education opportunities about dementia.
- Access appropriate care and treatment, including social services support and relevant benefits where appropriate.