Local experts say when to get tested for Alzheimer's and what to expect

Posted at 11:06 AM, Sep 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-25 12:01:30-04

Forgetting where you put your keys or losing your train of thought is normal, as long as it isn't happening regularly. But when does it become a concern?

When it becomes more frequent and common for someone, local experts say it might be time to get tested for Alzheimer's and dementia.

"All of us have memory issues. All of us have word-finding issues. All of us have gotten off the airplane, gone out to the parking lot, and forgotten where our car is parked," Regence Executive Medical Director Joe Badolato says. "A classic example would be if you take a specific route to a grocery store or where you work, or home and you begin to forget where your homes located or where the grocery store is, that's a real serious problem because that typically doesn't happen."

Evaluations for Alzheimer's and dementia testing consist of three parts, starting with an interview with the patient and family to understand their backgrounds and current symptoms.

"The second part is the testing portion. We administer standardized pencil and paper tests," Clinical Neuropsychologist Cynthia Tremblay says.

The way a patient performs on the tests gives doctors an idea of what symptoms they are experiencing and whether it is typical for aging or dementia signs.

The final part of the evaluation process is the feedback session. The patient and family would meet with the doctor and discuss results and recommendations.

"Some people have anticipated the diagnosis; they think that's what's been going on. For people who maybe didn't have an inclination that that might be what was happening, it's more about education," Tremblay says.

Tremblay says she also lets patients and family members know what to expect since there is currently no cure for Alzheimer's and dementia.

"The medications can help for a short period of time with things like memory and judgment and things like that, but its really, compared to not taking any medications, it's not a huge benefit. They don't increase your life expectancy or your life span for somebody with Alzheimer's," Badolato says.

The virtual Walk to End Alzheimer's is on Saturday, October 3 for the Treasure Valley. If you want to be a member on our team this year, click here to learn more and register to participate.