How to Get a Diagnosis

Early Diagnosis is Key

Many things can cause dementia, a decline in intellectual ability severe enough to interfere with a person's daily routine. Dementias related to depression, drug interaction, and thyroid problems may be reversible if detected early. Other causes of dementia include strokes, Lewy body dementia, frontotemporal dementia, Huntington's disease, and Parkinson's disease. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia. It is important to identify the actual cause in order for the individual the receive proper care.

The individual who may have Alzheimer's disease may be able to maximize the quality of his or her life by receiving an early diagnosis. It may also resolve the anxiety of wondering "What is wrong with me?" An early diagnosis allows more time to plan for the future. Decisions regarding care, living arrangements, financial and legal issues, and other important issues can be addressed.

There is no one diagnostic test that can detect if a person has Alzheimer's disease. The diagnosis is made by reviewing a detailed history on the person and the results of several tests, including a complete physical and neurological examination, a psychiatric assessment and laboratory tests. Once these test are completed, a diagnosis of "probable" Alzheimer's disease can be made by process of elimination. However, physicians can be 80 percent to 90 percent certain their diagnosis is accurate.

What is a Memory Clinic?

Memory clinics, otherwise known as dementia diagnostic clinics, are staffed by providers who are well informed in the diagnosis and treatment of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Contacting one of the clinics or your primary care physician is an important first step when you have concerns about memory loss, thinking skills and behavior changes in yourself or a loved one.

Clinics in Wisconsin

Clinics in the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute-Affiliated Dementia Diagnostic Clinic Network differ from other memory clinics in that their staff have received training/observation time and/or guidance from the Wisconsin Alzheimer's Institute (WAI) and the UW Health Memory Assessment Clinic. In addition, clinic network staff attend the WAI's annual conference and bi-annual clinic network meetings, which provide up-to-date research and disease management information. Clinics in the network remain autonomous, but follow a set of guidelines.

Click here to find a WAI-affiliated memory clinic near you >