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How is Alzheimer's diagnosed? What is the difference between Alzheimer's and Dementia? How do they determine it is Alzheimer's and not normal aging dementia?

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Ditto my mom doesn't have Alzheimers but has no short-term memory. I have run all kinds of "experiments" on how/why her memory works and I haven't figured it out yet. Her memory kind of comes and goes. One day she won't remember something and the next day she will be able to recall that thing or person. She can't remember whether my brother called her the day before. She can't remember how old she is, even though I've told her 300 times. And it's written in big letters and pinned to her couch. But if I tell her the girl is coming to clean tomorrow, she may remember that. One week she will and the next week she won't. It's still a total and complete mystery to me! Our brains are a mystery!!
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My mom is in a nursing home now. The assessment nurse came in and asked her to remember 3 random words. She asked her what they were a couple of minutes later. She knew them. However, if I ask her if say my brother was there ( a few minutes after he leaves), she says no. She doesn't know must of her children and none of her grandchildren. She had thought her brother was her son. I am baffled that she knew those words. Can anyone make any sense out of this?
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Thanks for all your responses.
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Dementia can be caused by many things, Alzheimer's is one of them.
This is one of the reasons that a good medical work-up is so essential. Agreeing with Sandwich42's post -- any GP who just brushes off the concerns should become the patient's FORMER Dr.
Some conditions that present with dementia are very treatable if addressed promptly (vit B deficiency, low blood O2, mini-strokes, sleep apnea, etc).
Some causes of dementia have some treatment but no cure (there are meds that help some AZ patients).
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Here is the web site. I meant to include above. http://www.alz.org/dementia/types-of-dementia.asp
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Dementia is a general term for loss of memory and other mental abilities severe enough to interfere with daily life. It is caused by physical changes in the brain. Alzheimer's is one type of dementia. Check out the Alzheimer's Association for the signs, symptoms, and diagnosis information on the various types of dementia.
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What are symptoms of Alzheimer's versus dementia.
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Doctors use symptoms described by family/friends to conclude it's Alzheimers because it has a pretty consistent profile. Other dementias have profiles too, which helps the deduction process.

Imaging can help doctors see what parts of the brain are being affected through lack of blood flow and tissue that is just gone.

There is no such thing as normal aging dementia. That is old thinking from the days where people were just expected to go senile or have hardening of the arteries.

Cognitive impairment is always something to have a neurologist and geriatrician investigate. Any doctor who brushes cognitive change off to "old age" ought to be poked in the eyeball. Old age is not a bucket excuse to avoid having to look into things to confirm if there is a treatable problem there.
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