By Kristine Dwyer, Staff Writer
The Family Questionnaire is designed to help
identify patients with memory problems that might go
unnoticed by clinicians. It consists of five simple
- In your opinion, does your loved one have
problems with any of the following challenges
and how often?
- Repeating or asking the same thing over and
- Remembering appointments, family occasions,
- Writing checks, paying bills, and balancing
- Deciding what groceries or clothes to buy?
- Taking medications according to
The information collected from these tools can be
shared with the patient’s primary care physician and
then a determination of need for further testing or
a referral to a specialist can be made at that time.
There is no single diagnostic test to detect whether
a person has Alzheimer’s disease. However,
diagnostic tools and criteria have been developed in
recent years to make a clinical diagnosis of AD with
an accuracy rate of 85-90 percent.
The factors used to complete a diagnosis include:
- Medical History
- Mental Status Evaluation
- Physical Examination
- Neurological Examination
- Neuropsychological Evaluation
- Brain Scans
- Laboratory Tests
The assessment of AD might begin with a memory
screening test in the primary care physician’s
office and then the patient may be referred to a
neurologist, neuropsychologist, a geriatric
psychiatrist or other specialist trained in the
diagnosis of AD for further testing. Caregivers and
family members are essential to the process of
diagnosing early-stage Alzheimer’s disease. They may
be able to supply valuable information and validate
or deny the patient’s own reports.
A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease usually falls
into one of three categories:
- Probable Alzheimer’s—indicates a physician
has ruled out all other disorders that may be
causing the dementia.
- Possible Alzheimer’s—indicates the presence
of another disorder that could be affecting the
understood progression of Alzheimer’s. The
disease process appears different than what is
normally seen; yet Alzheimer’s disease is still
considered the primary cause of dementia
- Definite Alzheimer’s— this diagnosis can
only be made at the time of an autopsy because
it requires examination of actual brain tissue.
An autopsy can confirm the presence of senile
plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the
brain, which are the characteristic lesions of
Alzheimer’s, to diagnose the disease with 100