Getting an Accurate Diagnosis: Is it Alzheimer's or Not?

Getting an Accurate Diagnosis: Is it Alzheimer's or Not?

The changes came on suddenly. Heather and her 63-year-old husband, Bill, a professional all his life, got taken off guard one day when Bill simply couldn't remember their dog's name. "It was more than a senior moment," says Heather. In a short period of time, Bill's language and memory seem to take a sudden and devastating fall. Knowing something was terribly wrong, they set up an appointment with Bill's primary care physician. At the appointment, Bill was asked to perform some tests. A quick assessment using visuals, hand motions, and a seemingly easy task of drawing a clock face revealed Bill was in big trouble. He couldn't do it and struggled through the assessment. After it was over, they asked their PCP what he thought it was. The doctor's response?  Alzheimer's disease.

Heather shared with us that at that moment, she and Bill looked at each other and felt sick to their stomach. The doctor ordered an MRI but Heather needed information and guidance immediately. Heather, taking a proactive approach, reached out to a close friend who let her know she could call on Debra Desrosiers, even though they weren't clients of Visiting Angels. Heather needed more information, seasoned advice, and the opportunity to ask questions. Debra has worked in the trenches for over a decade directing a busy homecare agency who specializes in dementia training for their staff. Additionally, Debra has coached families for years in the area of dementia and has become a Certified Alzheimer's/Dementia Coach and Consultant.

"Debra was very supportive. She calmed me down and gave me reassurance," says Heather. "She let me know about my options, offering services and let me know that it may not be dementia." Good advice and potentially good news. Getting a proper diagnosis is the crucial first step, which Debra coins as the "Foundation" in her coaching program: The Caregiver Keys to Navigating the Dementia Journey.

Soon after, Bill's MRI revealed a brain tumor. Just days later, Bill's tumor was surgically removed. Chemotherapy and radiation began soon after. Bill's long term treatment will be determined by periodic assessments. "We will keep moving ahead with our lives and retirement, as we've planned," says Heather.

Heather and Bill, we wish you all the best in your journey. We concur the importance of getting a thorough and accurate diagnosis when cognitive (or any) conditions surface. Lastly, we commend you on your rapid and zealous efforts of getting your husband into the right hands.

We are here to be of service and highly recommend, if you are facing a diagnosis or cognitive challenge, to go the distance, as Heather and Bill did, to be sure the diagnosis is accurate.

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Note: Names in this article (except for Debra Desrosiers, CSA, CADC, and Director of Visiting Angels in Auburn NH) have been changed to protect privacy.

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