It's important to understand that not everything that looks like dementia is dementia. Therefore, it is crucial to get yourself or your partner checked out if displaying any symptoms that are often associated with dementia. It may be treatable! If you aren't familiar with common symptoms of dementia, consider downloading our 10 Warning Signs of Dementia printable.
Both depression and delirium can mimic dementia and there are also what we call reversible dementias. Reversible dementias are conditions whose symptoms mimic those of dementia, but whose cause is not degenerative in nature. For example: vitamin deficiencies, thyroid problems, infections, etc. — if caught early enough, the dementia-like symptoms caused by these conditions could be potentially treatable and reversible. For this reason, seeking an accurate diagnosis is important.
A specific diagnosis of dementia can also be key in understanding what to expect in terms of symptoms and challenges, as each type of dementia presents differently. It will allow you to better prepare for what's to come when caring for your partner.
Also, a specific diagnosis can be extremely helpful in determining appropriate treatment options to manage cognitive and behavioral symptoms that may arise. In fact, people with certain types of dementia may be sensitive to and/or inappropriate for certain types of medications. For example, people with Lewy Body dementia tend to be extremely sensitive to antipsychotic medications. Also, most medications prescribed for the treatment of cognitive symptoms related to dementia are only FDA-approved for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, which is important to know.
Now, is it absolutely necessary to get a specific dementia diagnosis? I would say no. However, if hospice services are on your radar as a potential end-of-life consideration, then getting a formal diagnosis can be very important. In order to qualify for hospice, a doctor must certify that the person has a terminal illness. If your partner has never been diagnosed with dementia or some other terminal illness then they will have to first get a formal diagnosis.
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