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How Often Is Alzheimer’s Disease Misdiagnosed?

Published on Mar 31, 2020 by Thomas Law Offices.

Misdiagnoses happen in medical settings more often than people realize. In some cases, the patient can seek a second opinion and get the treatment they need before their condition worsens. When an elderly person is misdiagnosed, however, the consequences can be fatal.

Often times, nursing home residents have to rely on the judgment of the home’s medical professionals and employees. If the proper professionals aren’t there, misdiagnosis is a real possibility—especially if the resident has Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the number of Americans living with the disease could rise from five million to 16 million by 2050. It’s estimated, however, that one in five Alzheimer’s cases may be misdiagnosed. In order to understand why the misdiagnosis rate is so high, let’s take a look at what the disease is, what traditional diagnostic tests look like, and how it’s treated.

Recognizing the Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

As a brain disease, Alzheimer’s causes a slow decline in memory, thinking, and reasoning skills. While the signs and symptoms vary from patient to patient, the most common signs of Alzheimer’s include:

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • Decreased or poor judgment
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Changes in mood and personality

If you start to notice any of these signs in your loved one, it’s important to inform the nursing home right away. They should be able to contact the proper medical professionals, including the primary care physician, to complete an evaluation. If an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is made, you can begin focusing on measures to slow the effects of the disease and ensure your loved one understands their condition.

It’s important to note that the signs of the disease are a contributing factor to misdiagnosis—especially in nursing homes. This is because many of those symptoms are signs of aging and other forms of dementia. That’s why it’s important to have a specialist determine what’s going on.

Understanding How Alzheimer’s Disease Is Diagnosed

When any type of dementia is suspected, there are a number of specialists that can work together to help a patient. Your loved one will likely come in contact with geriatricians, geriatric psychiatrists, neurologists, and neuropsychologists.

There are several methods used to diagnose Alzheimer’s, according to the National Institute on Aging. It’s likely the doctor will start by asking the patient and their family questions about overall health, the use of prescription and over-the-counter medications, diet, medical problems, and recent changes in behavior and personality. Tests revolving around memory, problem-solving, attention, counting, and language can also be conducted.

After that, standard medical tests are likely—including blood and urine tests to identify if there are any conditions the patient doesn’t know they have. Depending on the results, the doctor could order brain scans like CT, MRI, or PET to rule out other potential causes.

If the care team working with your loved one makes an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis, the next steps are to ensure the facility has the resources to give your loved one the care they need.

Finding Long-Term Care for a Person With Alzheimer’s

While nursing homes should have services and staff to address nutrition, care planning, recreation, spirituality, and medical care, not every facility is equipped with a memory care unit. If your loved one’s facility is not, it’s a good idea to consider transferring them to a facility that does.

Alzheimer’s special care units (SCUs) are designed to meet the needs of individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. 24-hour supervision is available to keep residents safe. They will have trained staff, specialized activities, and the ability to care for residents as needs change.

Because forms of dementia are typically progressive, your loved one will experience levels of decline as time passes. Having them in a facility that can meet their needs will ensure the highest quality of life possible.

Learn About Your Legal Rights and Options

If you believe a misdiagnosis contributed to your loved one’s suffering in their nursing home, you have the right to take legal action on their behalf. Nursing home residents are supposed to receive the medical care they need to live a high-quality life. If a facility fails to provide that care or employs inexperienced doctors who are likely to misdiagnose conditions, they can be held accountable for their negligence.

Filing a claim on behalf of your loved one takes time, but working with Thomas Law Offices will expedite the process as much as possible. We’ll work to ensure your loved one receives the compensation they need to recover as much as possible from the neglect they faced and seek the proper medical care they need for their condition.

The sooner you get in touch with our office, the better your chances are of maximizing the compensation your family is awarded. Schedule a free consultation with us today, and we’ll put your loved one on the path to recovery.

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Meet Our Founder

Tad Thomas - Trial Lawyer

Tad Thomas

Managing Partner

Tad Thomas has dedicated his practice to representing plaintiffs in various types of civil litigation, including personal injury, business litigation, class actions, and multi-district litigation.

After graduating with his law degree in 2000 from Salmon P. Chase College of Law at Northern Kentucky University, Mr. Thomas immediately opened his own private practice and began representing injury victims.

In 2011, Thomas Law Offices was established in Louisville, Kentucky. Over the past decade, Mr. Thomas has expanded his firm and now has offices in three additional locations: Cincinnati, Ohio, Columbia, Missouri, and Chicago, Illinois. He is also a frequent lecturer on topics like trial skills and ethics and technology.

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