Dementia is defined as a disturbance in memory functioning and one other area of cognition, such as language. There are many different types of dementia, and the condition can be progressive, as in the case of Alzheimer's Disease, or static, such as when associated with a brain injury from a car accident.
A comprehensive dementia evaluation examines a wide range of cognitive abilities, including memory, orientation, attention, language, visual-spatial ability, executive functioning, and praxis (the ability to use tools). Tests that measure these abilities help determine if the person has dementia, and provide hints as to the type of dementia from which the individual is suffering. The person should be evaluated for depression, as this condition can mimic the symptoms of dementia. Depression and dementia can co-occur, in which case the individual should receive appropriate treatment for both the depressive symptoms and the dementia condition.
In the case of dementia, it is important to periodically re-evaluate the individual's cognitive abilities with neuropsychological testing after the initial diagnosis. Re-evaluation should occur every nine months to determine if the condition is progressive and to document the course of the disease. These evaluations assist the physician in determining responses to any treatment that may have been prescribed. Finally, repeat evaluations assist the family and physician in making decisions regarding living arrangements for someone in advanced stages of the disease.