Each week we will be featuring a question and answer with our Director of Staff Development, Ric Cavanagh, M.S.W., about Alzheimer’s disease and what to do when your elderly parent is diagnosed. Keep an eye out every Tuesday for Ric’s Alzheimer’s Q&A.

Have a question for Ric? Visit our “Contact Us” page to submit your question and Ric’s response will be posted on the EasyLiving blog.

Q: How is Alzheimer’s disease diagnosed?

A: Until recently, most medical professionals felt that the only way to be sure that someone had Alzheimer’s disease was to perform an autopsy after death.  Most physicians diagnosed the disease by taking note of the various symptoms exhibited by a patient and concluding that she most likely had Alzheimer’s. Some professionals also administered a short “mini-mental” assessment tool that proved to be highly reliable in screening for dementia.  A good diagnostic work up should include these tools plus tests to rule out other (often reversible) causes, a complete history and a thorough physical exam.

The medical community has recently determined that the use of MRI tests, spinal taps and other diagnostic tools can now be used to more accurately diagnose the disease.  It’s likely that physicians will increasingly recommend various diagnostic tests to confirm Alzheimer’s disease in the future.