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Visual Clues to Dementia Diagnosis


Updated: April 12, 2006

Diagnosing Alzheimer's Disease

There are a number of strong visual clues that can indicate to people working in health and state agencies or to friends and relatives that someone has a dementia such as Alzheimer's disease. As you read you will see how important it is not to base your judgement on an isolated set of criteria. When any disease or condition is being investigated with a view to diagnosis a number of different presentations, examinations and tests are required for an accurate diagnosis.

Visual Clues that may indicate a diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease

Personal Hygiene a Visual Clue for Alzheimer's
As routines are disrupted by profound memory difficulties a lack of personal hygiene is often one of the first indications that someone is having major problems. Previously clean and tidy individuals look unkempt. Problems with poor toileting habits, bathing and continence cause staining and odors. Appearance, previously important, looses all meaning.

Dress a Visual Clue for Alzheimer's
If someone with dementia dresses themselves without assistance the result can be interesting. Clothes go on in the wrong order and onto the wrong parts of the body. Sleeves end up being forced onto legs, there can be layering so that an Antarctic expedition looks likely and underclothes over dresses and tops can create a Madonna Versace fission (if it wasn't for the often unkempt overall appearance).

Gait and Motor Activity a Visual Clue for Alzheimer's
With any disease where there is neurological involvement loss of motor abilities can be seen in a person's gait and posture. Examples include unsteadiness, restlessness, apathy may cause movement to appear timid or directionless, safety may be disregarded.

Facial Expression a Visual Clue for Alzheimer's
Facial expression is so important in all animals and humans. As a normal part of communication we look for visual clues in facial expression. When someone is suspected of showing signs of dementia facial expression may reflect feelings of anxiety, depression, agitation or bewilderment. The person's facial expression may be inappropriate.

Visual presentation is only one part of the human picture. Any observations that we make of an individual must be backed up by other investigations to corroborate our initial concerns.


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