RDS Canada members tell us that from symptom onset to obtaining an accurate diagnosis can take a long time. Members also report that because they are younger or because their symptoms are different, they hesitate to contact their family physician. They will attribute their symptoms to “being tired and needing a holiday”, “stressed at work”, “going through menopause” or “I’m getting old”.
Like all health matters, it’s probably best not to delay investigations to see what the problem might be. Your family physician may be able treat conditions that mimic dementia symptoms. Getting a diagnosis also involves several assessments to rule out other medical conditions. For individuals with dementia, this is typically done by a neurologist or psychiatrist and would involve obtaining a detailed medical history, tests of cognitive functioning (such as memory), blood tests, as well as brain scans such as a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Tests such as positron emission tomography (PET) scan or lumbar puncture can also be conducted to detect any protein abnormalities in the brain or cerebrospinal fluid.
Although getting a diagnosis can be time-consuming, involving several visits to various healthcare professionals, and sometimes distressing or intrusive, it is a first important step to getting necessary support and care.