The best memory disorders care comes after a thorough evaluation, accurate diagnosis — when possible — and through ongoing education.
An initial evaluation includes a thorough review of a person's history of symptoms corroborated by friends and family, a careful medical and neurological examination and additional testing — most often a CT or MRI scan of the head and bloodwork. In most cases an accurate diagnosis can be made at this point, and medications started if appropriate.
However, treatment should not end here. Education about the condition diagnosed now becomes critical, including expected symptoms, course, any complications and treatment options. Increased knowledge can lower levels of anxiety and depression in both those diagnosed with a memory disorder and their caregivers.
The knowledge most useful can vary from person to person and from time to time. It may involve a greater understanding of a specific diagnosis and current research. Or it may involve a better understanding of treatment approaches, both in terms of medication and behavioral and environmental management.
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This knowledge may also mean a more introspective approach by gaining a deeper understanding of ourselves and our own reactions to a diagnosis in our loved ones. Equipping yourself with knowledge from the point of diagnosis and throughout the journey will allow you to take control of your life.
The Alzheimer's Association has noted the following benefits of disease-specific knowledge both for the person diagnosed with dementia, and his/her caregiver:
■ Helps you to cope with the diagnosis.
■ Allows you to have more conversations with your doctor about available treatments, medications and research opportunities.
■ Allows you or your loved one to be involved with legal, financial and long-term care plans.
■ Encourages you to set goals that you or your loved one wish to accomplish while still able.
■ Helps you to recognize symptoms of dementia and how you can cope with them.
■ Assists in building a care team that will support you now and in the future.
■ Allows you to take a more active role in managing the disease.
Baptist Health Medical Group Neurology and Baptist Health HealthwoRx are offering a free educational series, Brainworks at HealthwoRx, for individuals who have been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and their caregivers. Programs are scheduled each Wednesday in May from 1-2:30 p.m. at HealthwoRx in Lexington Green. To register, please call 859-260-4354.