Assessing Memory Problems

Melva Noakes is a rare treasure. A certified Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Care Trainer and a member of the National Council Dementia Practitioners and the International Council Dementia Practitioners, Melva works in our marketing group here at The Mansions. She tirelessly and compassionately shares her almost unlimited knowledge about the challenges of aging and dementia with families, caregivers and the community at large.

We recently had a chance to sit down with Melva and talk about what steps she would recommend to a concerned family member who came to The Mansions seeking guidance about a loved one experiencing memory issues. Her suggestions?

  • Make an appointment with your family member’s physician for a complete evaluation.
  • Notify all medical personnel in advance of the appoint of your concerns. Highlight behavior that has been a concern to you and caused you to contact their office.
  • Recommend that the physician ask the following questions and make sure these questions are included in each of their tests. Tell your family member that they must be totally honest in their answers. Often, you as a caregiver, will be asked to corroborate this information.
  1. Do you drink alcohol? If so how often?
  2. Do you smoke? How many packs a day?
  3. Are you taking drugs, whether over the counter, illegal or prescribed? If prescription, are you taking the proper doses and what are they?
  4. Did you play contact sports in your youth?
  5. List all previous employment, taking special note of any injuries that occurred on the job.
  • Encourage the physician to discuss overall health, past medical problems, ability to carry out daily activities, and changes in behavior and personality. Again, as a caregiver, you will be an invaluable asset in the evaluation process.
  • Your family member must give the doctor full consent to conduct tests of memory, problem solving, attention, counting, and language.
  • The doctor will order standard medical tests, such as blood and urine tests, to identify other possible causes of the problems.
  • The doctor might perform brain scans, such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or positron emission tomography (PET), to rule out other possible causes for symptoms.
  • These tests may be repeated to create a baseline and give doctors information about how your loved one’s memory and other cognitive functions have changed over time.
  • Do not be upset if you do not receive a definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. For further information about the identification of dementia and Alzheimer’s, please go to:
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/in-depth/alzheimers/art-20048075
  • Remember that over the years, doctors have been able to help many people with memory and thinking problems and as an extension, their family members. By talking with their doctor, the person experiencing these issues can quickly deal with symptoms may be due to Alzheimer’s or possibly, another cause, such as stroke, tumor, Parkinson’s disease, sleep disturbances, side effects of medication, an infection, or a non-Alzheimer’s dementia. Some of these conditions may be treatable and possibly reversible, so keep in mind that nothing is resolved until a final diagnosis is established.

Are you or someone you love concerned about possible memory loss? Please contact us to discuss your options for care. Melva Noakes is waiting your call at (770) 757-9677.

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