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Diagnosing dementia

Helen Crawford, M.D.

I was happy to see the interview about Barbara Larsen, Del Oro Caregiver Resource Center, and dementia. A few corrections about diagnosing dementia might be helpful for families.

Standard verbal mental tests can, in fact, diagnose dementia but cannot determine cause (although certain patterns might point towards certain types of dementia). Such tests are the basis for diagnosing dementia and can be done by any competent family doctor, internist, or psychiatrist, as well as a neurologist.

Blood panels, PET scans, and MRIs do not actually diagnose dementia. From the wording of the interview, Ms. Larsen may have been trying to convey this. PET scans are currently premature for use in individual situations but can be interesting for research purposes. Again, diagnosis can be made and treatment initiated without a neurologist or specialty clinic. In unusual, complicated, or otherwise perplexing cases, referrals to such specialty physicians should be made.

The help Barbara Larsen and Sara Heinzel provide through the Del Oro Caregivers Resource Center is invaluable. I appreciate the support for the families and patients I refer there. Keep up the excellent work.

Helen Crawford, M.D.

Nevada City


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