Dementia isn’t just one disease, it’s a group of symptoms that affect your memory, thinking and social abilities.
Fortunately, at Central Maine Healthcare, you have some of the country’s best resources at your disposal — both at our hospital and through our telemedicine partnership with Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Working together, the specialists share electronic records, consult, and work quickly to diagnose dementia.
What Does Dementia Look Like?
Dementia is tricky to diagnose because its symptoms can signal a long list of unrelated disorders. Some forms of dementia are progressive, like Alzheimer’s disease or Lewy Body dementia.
But some types of dementia can be reversed. If it’s caused by an endocrine problem, such as a low-functioning thyroid or by dehydration or certain infections, the dementia stops when those conditions are addressed.
For most dementia, however, there is no cure — but modern treatments can treat the symptoms and slow the disease’s progression. Symptoms generally fall into two categories: cognitive and psychological.
Cognitive symptoms include:
- Memory loss
- Difficulty communicating
- Planning or organizing
Psychological symptoms include:
- Personality changes
- Inappropriate behavior
How We Diagnose Your Dementia
Finding the reason for your dementia is a process. It involves a variety of cognitive and psychological tests. Your neurologist will consult with doctors at Massachusetts General to reach an accurate diagnosis, get a second opinion and design a treatment plan.
In order to pinpoint your type of dementia, doctors will first look at your risk factors for dementia: your thorough health history, including your age and family illnesses. Then, they’ll look for signs of depression, diabetes, Down syndrome, sleep apnea, smoking or heavy alcohol use — all of which could influence dementia.
Our doctors will also test your memory, your language skills, your visual perception, and your ability to focus, reason and solve problems. They’re also likely to run CT and MRI scans to check for signs of stroke, tumors or bleeding in your brain. A PET scan can document your brain activity and tell doctors if the protein associated with Alzheimer’s (called amyloid) is present.
What We’ll Do for Your Dementia
Once we know exactly why you’re exhibiting symptoms, our physicians work on managing them.
Almost always, they will prescribe medications to ease your symptoms. You’ll likely take a med such as Aricept — a cholinesterase inhibitor — that will boost your levels of the brain chemical that helps restore your memory and judgement skills. These medicines are common in treating Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lewy Body.
Other medicines regulate additional brain chemicals that affect your depression, ability to learn, and sleep.
Beyond medications, we provide help that can improve your everyday life and independence:
Our therapists will teach you coping strategies, which can help you perform simple tasks such as laundry and making coffee. Their aim is to prevent falls and other accidents and prepare you for progression of the illness.
Modify your environment
Central Maine will do everything possible to make your home safer. We can help you reduce clutter and noise, hide items such as knives and car keys, and make sure you are visited regularly.
Modify your tasks
We’ll look at everything you do during the day and find ways to make those tasks easier. You’ll have structure and routine in your day, which will help you learn to focus on small successes.