WellSpan Home

Medical History and Physical Exam for Dementia or Alzheimer's Disease

Topic Overview

A person's medical history and a physical exam are important parts of the evaluation when the person has symptoms of dementia or Alzheimer's disease.

Medical history

The doctor will ask questions during a medical history to assess a person's past and current overall health and to find out how well the person functions.

This process may be complicated if the person isn't able to remember important parts of his or her medical history or isn't aware of the memory loss. A family member can be very helpful in providing information about the person's symptoms, such as when the symptoms were first noticed, how quickly they developed, and whether they have continued to get worse.

Other important information in a medical history includes:

  • Other medical problems the person has or has had, such as a stroke, Parkinson's disease, HIV infection, depression, a head injury, heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure. In some cases, illnesses can cause confusion or other signs of dementia.
  • Whether there is a history of Alzheimer's disease or dementia in the family.
  • The person's family, social, cultural, and educational background, as well as any recent unusual events in the person's life. These things can influence how a person performs on a mental status test. And some experts believe that they may affect the risk of dementia.
  • What medicines the person is taking. Some medicines can contribute to memory loss or mental impairment. This side effect of certain drugs is an easy problem to correct but is often overlooked as the cause of symptoms.
  • History of alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Mood changes, hallucinations, or unusual behavior (such as lack of inhibition).
  • Recent problems with forgetfulness.

Physical exam

The doctor will do a complete physical exam to look for conditions that could cause dementia. He or she also will assess risk factors for dementia, such as alcohol use and heart disease.

The person will also have a complete neurological exam to look for signs of a stroke, such as trouble speaking, hearing, or moving.

Daily tasks

The doctor will ask about a change in the person's ability to perform daily tasks. The person or relative may be asked whether the person can:

  • Bathe and dress himself or herself and use the toilet.
  • Cook meals.
  • Manage money.
  • Do daily household tasks.
  • Take medicines on schedule.
  • Drive safely and get around in usually familiar areas.

Related Information

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerAnne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerMyron F. Weiner, MD - Geriatric Psychiatry

Current as ofDecember 7, 2017


Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.

×

Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to https://my.wellspan.org, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.

×