Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is an irreversible brain disease. It slowly destroys a person’s mind and their ability to complete everyday tasks. There is currently no cure for AD.
Doctors diagnose AD by performing physical examinations, conducting tests, noting behavior changes, and assessing memory impairment. There are many types of doctors who can diagnose and treat AD.
If you’re worried a loved one might have AD, read on to see which doctors might be involved in treating the disease and how to find the right specialists.
Primary care doctor
If you notice changes in a loved one’s memory, thinking, or behavior, you should contact their primary care doctor. This doctor can help with the following:
- Conduct an exam to see if any physical or mental issue has caused the problems.
- Give a brief memory-screening test, such as the Abbreviated Mental Test Score. A score lower than six out of 10 suggests a need for further evaluation.
- Provide essential medical history information needed for an accurate diagnosis.
- Identify changes in the person’s memory and thinking others may miss.
The primary care doctor can refer you to the right kind of specialists as needed for diagnosing and treating AD. These may include the following:
Geriatricians are medical doctors who work with older adults. They know whether symptoms indicate a serious problem.
Geriatric psychiatrists specialize in mental and emotional problems of older adults. They can assess memory and thinking problems.
Geropsychologists specialize in the mental health needs of the elderly and their families. They can assess, intervene, and consult with you and other professionals regarding the care of a person with AD.
Neurologists are physicians who focus on abnormalities of the brain and central nervous system. They can conduct in-depth neurological examinations. Neurologists use brain scans, like CT and head MRI scans, to help make a diagnosis.
Neuropsychologists generally perform tests of memory and thinking, as well as other tests, collectively referred to as neuropsychological testing. They can help determine a person’s specific impairments and how severe they are. Neuropsychologists may also correlate test results with the results of neurological tests such as CT and MRI scans to help make a diagnosis.