Not yet diagnosed. Does that cause problems?

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My mother is 86 and based upon all my reading about Alzheimer's, which ive done a lot of lately, I'm sure she has Alzheimer's. Her primary care has seen her twice in the last year and shea due to see him again in March. I faxed him a letter describing the short term memory issues before the first appt and he has given her verbal memory tests at both appts and put her on aricept at the last appt. A diagnosis has not bewn given...but i see further symptoms as the month a go by, lack of ability to follow instructions or conversations, balance checkbook, etc. My question is, should i press for a diagnosis to confirm alzheimers? Is there a reason to have a diagnosis, other than to know what to expect...which i already do thanks to the articles and books ive been reading about the disease.

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For me, it depends on the symptoms you see. What you've written, I also see in my mom, who has virtually no short-term memory. She can't follow instructions very well either and couldn't balance her checkbook if she tried.

I've never had her diagnosed because I don't think she has Alzheimers. She can still do a crossword puzzle and read a novel (I'm not sure how much she remembers, but she seems to enjoy them). I tease her that as long as she's not putting her mustard jars in the toilet (a friend's grandmother did that), we're good. She knows me and my brother and can carry on a good, though limited conversation. But she'll ask me the same question 10X in 10 minutes. I think my mom's problem is caused by the medications she's been on for heart problems (a-fib) and high blood pressure (Lipitor). And just general cognitive decline from aging.

I'm very comfortable with where we are and with no diagnosis. My mom is 95 and has her little routine and does OK on her own with a lot of help from me. If you think a diagnosis would change your treatment of her, then try to get one. But don't feel like you have to if it won't change anything.
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Sheryl, the MD is presenting information to you in as simple terms as possible. You are not going to get more details without sending her to a neurological clinic and you need really good insurance to get that done. Otherwise the co-pays would break you. Aricept is indicated for the symptoms of Alzheimer's. The only way to know for sure that the patient has Alzheimer's is to remove the brain and look at pieces under a microscope. This is usually done after the patient dies.
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All of that sounds very expensive for her...neurologists and teams? Would her primary care arrange for those evaluations to be done or is that up to me to arrange? I feel like I need to know if she truly has alzheimers. Do doctors normally prescribe aricept for other forms of dementia?
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In your shoes, I would seek out a neurologist and neuropsych team who work together, perhaps at at a rehab center. Extensive cognitive testing let's you know what mom can and can't do. And a good geriatric psychiatrist can advise down the road about meds for anxiety and depression.
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Sherylbeth, "hardening of the arteries" is an old term for what most of us today would refer to as vascular dementia. Maybe doc is pulling punches with you too, though I think the medication chocies reflects that a diagnosis has in fact been made. Do you even know an MMSE score? It may not need more testing at all, or. possibly if doc is not a geriatric specialist you may want to involve one. Remember the goal of medical evaluation is to rule out any and all treatable causes or contributors to dementia - they should have checked blood sugar, B12, kidney and liver function (simple blood tests) and probably an MRI for non-alzheimer's dementia in particular. And the goal of medical treatment is to slow down brain function loss - ifpossible - sometimes you just can't- and let her feel as well as possible and support YOU in coping. Making her understand her condition or accept a diagnosis may or may not be a valid goal at all...frankly, it usually isn't. Putting any name at all on it that she feels comfortable with is just fine if she accepts the care and supervision she actually needs reasonably well.
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She says well its just hardening of the arteries...but....ive read a LOT about alzheimers lately; a few books regarding the stages, what normally occurs in each stage, as well articles. The other causes of dementia dont follow the path of alzheimers in terms of what symptoms appear amd how they manifest. Based on all ive studied about the disease, she certainly appears to have it. Im not even sure she would agree to have the required tests to confirm/rule it out. I guess i will fax a letter to her doctor prior to her appointment and see if he will approach her about testing, if he feels its warranted. She would definitely be more open to it coming from him than me.
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Alzheimer's is diagnosed based on extensive testing usually involving a neurologist as opposed to the very basic and simple memory tests given by a primary care physician.

And while Alzheimer's is a form of dementia it has different hallmarks than garden variety dementia. It shares some symptoms but there are behaviors that are specifically seen with Alzheimer's that you may not see with basic dementia.

Personally, I'd want to know. Alzheimer's isn't the only form of dementia.
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I do have POA which she signed 6 months ago....also advance directive, as well as my name on accounts/property. I just keep wondering if there is a need for a diagnosis..i feel certain she has it, but is a brain scan required or do doctors diagnose based on symptoms sometimes without a scan? I will probably try to speak with the dr before the March appt to get his take on diagnosing.
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Please make sure that you have poa for finances and health beforehand.
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Ask him privately. MD's do not want to discuss dementia or Alzheimer's in front of the patient, it causes some very upset responses. He will say things to you that he won't say in front of her.
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