About Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is not a new terminology in the medical encyclopedia. Yes! It is a well-known ailment, one that causes irreversible damage to the brain. It destroys a person’s mind gradually, and in a slow pattern, making the person unable to complete his or her daily tasks. Alzheimer’s disease currently has no cure.
Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed via physical examinations, tests, observation of behavioral changes, and assessing memory impairment. Alzheimer’s disease can be diagnosed and treated by many types of doctors. If you’ve got this fear that your loved one, who is affected by Alzheimer’s disease may not get well soon, or cannot be treated, then this article is for you. Read on to find out those physicians and specialists that are responsible for the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s.
The primary care physician
If your loved one exhibits changes in thinking, memory, or behavior, then you will do well to consult their primary care physician. The primary care physician plays some vital roles in the treatment of AD. These include:
- Carrying out a physical examination with the aim of finding out the underlying cause of the problem (it may be physical or mental issues).
- Administers a brief memory-screening test, for instance the Abbreviated Mental Test Score. If the score is lower than 6/10, then there would be a need for further evaluation.
- Provide vital medical history information required for an accurate diagnosis.
- Spot changes in the patient’s thinking and memory.
In some cases, the primary care physician can refer the patient to the right specialists as required for treatment and diagnosis of AD. These specialists may include:
- Geriatrician: These are doctors who specialize in the treatment of elderly patients. They can identify a symptom or symptoms that may cause complications.
- Geriatric psychiatrist: Geriatric psychiatrists are specialists in emotional and mental problems of elderly patients. They can access thinking and memory problems.
- Geropsychologists: These group of physicians in mental health needs of the elderly patients and their families. They can intervene, access, and consult with the patient and other professionals regarding treatment and care of AD patients.
- Neurologist: A neurologist is a physician that specializes on treatment of abnormalities of the central nervous system and the brain. They can perform in-depth neurological examinations. Neurologists use such techniques as head MRI scans, and CT scans to perform a diagnosis.
- Neuropsychologist: These group of physicians perform memory and thinking tests, as well as other kinds of tests, all referred to as neuropsychological testing. These tests can help to determine the severity of a person’s specific impairments. Neuropsychologists also compare and contrast test results with results of neurological tests such as MRI scans and CT scans to ease the process of diagnosis.
Memory centers and clinics
Health institutes such as the Alzheimer’s disease Research Centers have groups of specialists who carry out diagnosis and care if required. Your loved one can have his health reviewed by a geriatrician; a neuropsychologist can carry out checks on your loved one’s memory and thinking, while a neurologist can use scanning techniques to conduct a diagnosis.
About clinical trials
Although it is not approved for everyone, clinical trials may be an option. You can start your research at a well-equipped and credible location such as the Alzheimer’s disease Clinical Trials Database. This project is jointly run by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the US Food and Drug Administration. Maintenance is done by the Alzheimer’s disease education and referral (ADEAR) Center.
About a second opinion?
Diagnosing AD is not an easy procedure. In many cases, a second opinion may be part of the process. This is perfectly understood by most medical professionals which is why they do give referrals in many cases. If not, a number of other resources are at your disposal, including the ADEAR Center.
Locating an AD Specialist/Doctor
Sometimes, locating an AD doctor could be difficult, especially when your loved one has AD with unique requirements in regard to services, time, or symptoms. A doctor that accepts their insurance is also another consideration. You could start up by asking your friends or family (who have had issues with dementia and similar health issues) which health provider they recommend, or do not recommend. If you have a trusted primary care physician, then you may ask for his recommendation.
Other sources you may tap into include:
- Alzheimer’s association: This provides information on support and local chapters. The information is available on its website. You can also access a Community Resource Finder page on the website.
- Local senior centers: Partnerships and resources are available for members of the geriatric population, plus services for AD patients.
- National Association of Area Agencies on Aging: This association has quite a lot of members across the country who provide services to the aging population. You can locate resources in your region by entering your state and city on the homepage.
Your local healthcare facility may also have recommendations and resources for an Alzheimer’s disease specialist in or around your location.
Choosing a medical provider – the basics
Once you have drawn up a list of potential health providers, then you will have to consult their offices before making a decision on who to hire for your loved one. You may ask important questions on the phone such as:
- The kind of insurances accepted by the provider
- The kind of services offered for those with Alzheimer’s disease
- Are there any special qualifications or behavioral needs your practice works with or doesn’t work with (for instance, behavioral difficulties or sleep abnormalities)?
- How is the staff trained in AD and dementia? Do any support staff members have special credentials related to AD care?
Another factor to be considered is the level of experience possessed by the provider, especially in the treatment of AD patients. Some seek board certification in gerontology or in their chosen medical field. What this implies is that the physician has undergone further studies and testing to prove that they have adequate knowledge in a particular field.
Many offices also allow the visitor to tour the facility to know whether or not it is good for their loved one. You may also ask for testimonials from previous patients. Speaking to others can help you decide or have an idea of what it is like to see this doctor on a regular basis.
In the end, the healthcare provider should be a trusted person – someone that is capable of providing the needed care for your loved one.