How Is Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosed?

Whether or not your loved one has Alzheimer’s disease, you have probably wondered, “How is Alzheimer’s diagnosed?“ Before diagnosing, a doctor runs several tests to ensure that Alzheimer’s is affecting your loved one. Do you suspect that a family member is showing symptoms of Alzheimer’s but don’t know what to look for? There are several signs you should familiarize yourself with. We have compiled a list of the signs of Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, we will be discussing how a doctor diagnoses the disease and what the next steps should be.

What Tests Are Done to Diagnose Alzheimer’s?

Once you’ve arranged an evaluation with a doctor, they’ll take your loved one through a series of tests. During the evaluation, the doctor will have your loved one answer questions, perform tasks, and examine language usage. The results will help the doctor determine how safely your loved one can conduct certain activities, such as driving. Below are 7 different tests doctors can use to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease.

1. Mental Status Testing & Exams

A doctor can conduct mental status testing to diagnose your family member’s degree of cognitive impairment from Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions. The test examines your loved one’s cognitive function and memory skills.

2. Neuropsychological Tests

Neuropsychological tests can be utilized to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease and monitor your loved one’s cognitive skills. The evaluation is conducted by a neuropsychologist, someone who specializes in brain conditions and mental health.

3. Conduct An Interview With Friends & Family

If you are attempting to determine how Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed, an excellent way to analyze the cognitive changes of a family member is to interview their friends and relatives. The friends of your loved one may have valuable insights with regards to their mental health. Ask your family member’s friends whether or not they have noticed issues such as memory impairment, difficulty with communicating, asking repetitive questions, and personality changes. Once you have collected information from friends and family, you can give the details to your loved one’s doctor to assist with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

4. Lab Tests

You may be wondering if there are lab tests that can diagnose your loved one. Unfortunately, lab tests are used to rule out other disorders that have similar symptoms to Alzheimer’s. Lab tests are not used to detect or diagnose Alzheimer’s.

caring for family member with Alzheimer's disease

5. Brain Scanning Tests

Brain scans can help doctors see the degeneration of your loved one’s brain cells. However, these tests alone aren’t enough to assign an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Instead, a brain scan can help rule out other causes of brain degeneration.

6. Medical History

To diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, a doctor will ask about your family member’s medical history. The doctor will ask about any past or current medical issues that your loved one suffered and your family’s history regarding Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

7. Physical Exams

A physical exam will help your doctor identify any health issues that may be causing your loved one’s symptoms of Alzheimer’s. During the exam, the doctor will ask about their diet, review any medications they’re taking, collect blood and urine samples, and more.

How Genetic Testing Can Be Utilized to Diagnose Alzheimer’s Disease

If your family has a history of Alzheimer’s disease, it may be helpful to seek genetic testing to assess your risk. Researchers have identified genes that increase your risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Testing is only available for some genes, so medical professionals don’t recommend routine testing.

genetic testing to diagnose Alzheimer's

What Are Risk Genes?

The strongest risk gene for late onset Alzheimer’s, APOE-e4, can be identified through genetic testing. However, this test is mainly used in clinical trials to identify people at high risk for developing Alzheimer’s. In other words, this test can show if your loved one carries the APOE-e4 gene that can lead to the development of Alzheimer’s but is not a diagnosis. Consult a physician for more information about genetic testing.

What Is Autosomal Dominant Alzheimer’s Disease (ADAD)?

Although it accounts for 1 percent of all Alzheimer’s cases, Autosomal Dominant Alzheimer’s Disease (ADAD) runs strongly in families and tends to show up earlier in life. In some cases, people have developed symptoms as early as their 30’s. Luckily, genetic testing and other methods can be used to diagnose Autosomal Dominant Alzheimer’s Disease (ADAD). So, if your family has a history of early onset Alzheimer’s, getting tested to assess your risk and your other family members’ risk can help identify whether or not you’re at risk for developing early onset Alzheimer’s.

What To Do If You Believe a Family Member Has Alzheimer’s

When your loved one begins to show signs of cognitive decline, you may not know what to do. Undoubtedly it’s difficult to understand the behavioral changes and loss of some functions and memories. Even worse, you may feel like you don’t know how to help. Take a look at the warning signs below. Find out what you can do to help your loved one.

Analyze the Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s

We have created a list of common signs of Alzheimer’s disease. If your family member is exhibiting these signs, do not panic. The signs and behaviors below do not guarantee your loved one has Alzheimer’s. However, it’s important to be familiar with the signs of Alzheimer’s disease prior to visiting a doctor to receive a diagnosis.

  • Memory changes
  • Withdrawal from normal activity
  • Disorientation
  • Visual-spatial difficulties
  • Declining ability to write or speak
  • Challenges in problem-solving
  • Personality and mood changes
  • Frequently misplacing items
  • Pattern of poor judgment
  • Difficulty performing tasks

Have a Discussion With Family Members & Friends

One of the most difficult aspects of Alzheimer’s is talking about it. Instead of directly confronting your loved one about receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, try talking with others who know them. By asking friends and family if they’ve noticed any changes in your loved one, you’ll be able to collect information discreetly. You may find that others have similar questions or fears about the health of your family member.

family member with Alzheimer's

Ask Your Family Member How Their Memory Is Working

When the time is right, you should ask your family member how they feel their memory is working. But how should you go about this? Consider how your family member will react to questions about their memory. Some individuals who have symptoms of cognitive dysfunction may be aware of it and become defensive when you ask. Try your best to approach the subject of receiving testing for Alzheimer’s disease gently and with the use of “I” statements. Saying things such as “I am concerned about your memory” comes off more concerning than confrontational statements like, “You seem to be having trouble remembering things.”

Convince Your Loved One to Visit a Doctor

After you’ve noticed the signs, talked with family and friends, and approached your loved one about Alzheimer’s disease, there’s one thing left to do. You will need to consult with a doctor to begin testing for Alzheimer’s disease. It will likely be difficult for you to accomplish this. One thing you can say to help convince them to see a doctor is to go over what the appointment is about. This is not just an evaluation to potentially diagnose them with Alzheimer’s. An evaluation can help the doctor catch other, possibly reversible, conditions that may affect your loved one’s cognitive function. But even if your loved one does have Alzheimer’s disease, a visit with a doctor can get your loved one the diagnosis and treatment they need. Just as with the above sections, go with a gentle approach.

Alzheimer’s & Dementia Care Services

An Alzheimer’s diagnosis is not easy for a patient or their family. But there are facilities that can offer care and assistance for your loved one. The staff at our dementia care assisted living facility is trained in caring for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia. The intuitive and open layout in our community is designed to help your loved ones feel independent while keeping them safe. In addition, the staff at our Alzheimer’s care assisted living facility in Oakbrook Terrace, IL offers brain stimulating programs as well as ways for your family members to relax. You’re welcome to view photos of our memory care community on our website but to truly understand how dedicated we are to memory care, we recommend that you visit. Give our team a call by phone at (630) 534-0886 to become familiar with our Alzheimer’s care programs.