Some symptoms of dementia can mirror symptoms of other, treatable conditions, so it’s important to get a diagnosis for your symptoms.

Typically, a diagnosis starts by understanding and recognizing the 10 signs of cognitive impairment.

This guide will walk you through the more common steps of receiving a dementia diagnosis.

An older smiling woman.

Did you know…

that your free Annual Medicare Wellness Visit (AWV) includes a Cognitive Impairment Assessment?

Step 1: Know the 10 signs

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the most common cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease include:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  • Challenges with planning and problem solving
  • Confusion with time and place
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  • Problems with speaking and writing
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • Decreased or poor judgment
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Changes in mood or personality

Step 2: Talk to your doctor

If you recognize any of the 10 signs, the next recommended step is to call your primary care doctor. While he or she will be an important part of your care team, a primary care doctor may refer you to specialists to determine the cause of your symptoms. According to the National Institute on Aging, neurologists generally have the expertise to diagnose dementia, although other specialists may also be skilled in making a diagnosis. Members of your care team may include cognitive neurologists, neuropsychologists, psychologists, psychiatrists, and geriatricians.

Importance of Early Detection

Being proactive with your health by requesting the assessment can lead to many positive outcomes:

  • Understanding the cause and treating the underlying disease or health condition
  • Emphasis can be put on treatment, reducing symptoms and care, rather than searching for a diagnosis
  • Allows for the person and their family/significant others to have important conversations about the person’s wishes and their future care.
  • Gives the person and their family time to plan or create advance directives
  • Allows time for the person to assemble a care team that can help with medical, legal, financial and safety concerns
  • Promotes disease education and community support, through groups, etc.
  • May allow for access to research and clinical trials

Diagnosing Alzheimer's & Other Dementias: Understanding Alzheimer's & Dementia

Laurie Owen from Home Instead Senior Care and Dr. Jane Potter from the University of Nebraska Medical Center discuss how Alzheimer's disease and other dementias are diagnosed.