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Misericordia Community Hospital
An early diagnosis helps families plan for the future
Date : - 14/12/2007
To help families with the assessment, the Alzheimer Society has also produced a new brochure titled Getting A Diagnosis: Finding Out If It Is Alzheimer Disease. This brochure prepares families for the doctor appointment: what to expect, questions to ask, and information to bring along.

A diagnosis can be made in a family doctor's office, a memory clinic, a hospital or in the community.

The assessment can include some or all of the following: a detailed medical history, physical exam, mental status exam, lab tests, psychiatric and psychological evaluations, brain scans.

This testing helps determine whether the dementia symptoms are being caused by an illness that may be treatable such as depression, thyroid disease, heart disease, infection or by Alzheimer's disease.

"Where the dementia is caused by a reversible condition, the earlier you detect it, the more chance you have of reversing it," says Dr. Howard Bergman, a geriatrician and Director of Montreal's Jewish General Hospital/McGill University Memory Clinic. Dr. Bergman is one of a group of dementia experts developing guidelines to help family physicians recognize, assess and manage Alzheimer's disease.

"The family physician is the key person in all of this because the patient or family members are going to approach him or her first with their concerns," says Dr. Michael Cooper, a geriatric psychiatrist who performs memory loss assessment at the Penticton Regional Hospital in British Columbia. "If an early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease can be obtained, it allows families to start planning for the future--discussing financial arrangements, living arrangements, making sure that they have the necessary support services." This support includes current information on the disease, help from the Alzheimer Society, and the consideration of treatment options.

The first Alzheimer medication to treat symptoms of the disease is already on the Canadian market. Other drugs are in various stages of testing and may soon be available. "If Alzheimer medication can lead to a better quality of life," says Dr. Cooper, "then doctors will want to discuss it with patients and their families at an early stage."

Once a person has been diagnosed, it is important to involve the family. Dr. Gorman and her team sometimes find it necessary to hold a family conference.

"We may bring in a social worker, physiotherapist, occupational therapist and nurse. We meet the family and explain what dementia means, where the person is in terms of that diagnosis and why we think it's Alzheimer's disease and not something else. It helps relieve the tremendous anxiety about the diagnosis and what to do about providing care."

Families also learn about the wealth of services the Alzheimer Society provides. Services like support groups for people with Alzheimer's disease and their caregivers, individual counselling, information resources and community referrals.
Reference : -
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