Friday, February 1, 2013

Testing for Alzheimer's.

'A Place for Mom' had an article reviewing information on Alzheimer's testing. This disease is similar to other mental diseases and in the past, it was only through posthumous examination. Now when seeing the signs of Alzheimer's, there may be some testing available to help diagnose.

Standard testing is: 1) physical and neurological - check blood & urine; see how the patient walks; check vision, hearing, reflexes, and balance. 2) cognitive - solving simple problems & also looking at short and long term memory testing. 3) neuropsychological - time intensive testing of memory and thinking done by a psychiatrist or psychologist.
(picture from 'A Place for Mom' website)



There are new tests, identifying biomarkers, that maybe coming out which could help detect the disease early on. So scientists are working on: 1) brain imaging to look for changes - MRI, CT, PET; 2) cerebralspinal fluid protein levels - this is still being researched but it would only require a spinal tap; 3) check for proteins in the blood - looking for biomarkers in blood, urine, & the eye lens; 4) genetic markers - even though many markers have been identified, this is still mostly for research yet.

As much as everyone wants to run out and get mom/dad tested, many of these tests are NOT covered by insurance and are costly. The article mentions that genetic testing has its own risks and then the findings may affect insurance eligibility.

My mom went to a local Memory & Aging Clinic at a hospital that deals with many mental diseases. She went through a battery of mental testing while I filled out a large questionnaire. The findings at the time were good - she was 80 and her 'forgetfulness' was normal. But she did return a few times for check-ups. In my opinion, it is great to sit down with a doctor who is specialized with this type of mental disease, best to know 'yes' or 'no' rather than be guessing. Feel free to check previous post - "Delirium or Something Else".

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