Misdiagnosis of dementia – What does negligence look like among dementia patients?

Have you been recently struggling hard to remember small details like where you kept your car keys or the names of your grandchildren? Or have you been forgetting the dates of your doctor appointments? If answered yes, you must be worried that these symptoms imply either long-term loss of memory or Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Though according to the estimates of Alzheimer’s Association, the total number of people surviving with dementia will rise from 5 million to 18 million by 2050, yet the researchers also suggested that their database found that 1 among 4 people suffering from Alzheimer’s might even be misdiagnosed.

Now that everyone knows that dementia is a complicated disease and the diagnostic process is also complex enough, misdiagnosis of the disease is a common occurrence. Most often it is seen that people who experience subtle changes in short-term memory instantly confuse the symptoms with Alzheimer’s. You have to understand that there are several other treatable mental health conditions that have similar symptoms with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Unless the doctors use the right diagnostic training and tools, it is very hard to tell them apart.

5 Treatable conditions that are mistaken for dementia or Alzheimer’s

In order to avoid a misdiagnosis of dementia, it is important that you educate yourself on the other treatable mental health conditions which have similar symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Here are the names and descriptions of the 5 disorders.

1. MCI or Mild Cognitive Impairment

MCI is the stage that lies between the normal memory loss related to aging and the more serious cognitive decline due to the disorder of dementia. A person who is suffering from MCI will experience memory loss and other subtle changes that won’t interfere with the daily life of a person and will neither hamper his independence. Nevertheless, one thing to note is that MCI, if not taken care of, can progress to dementia. Hence, it is suggested that you visit a neurologist as soon as possible.

2. Neurocognitive disorders

Though it is a fact that Alzheimer’s is a mental health disorder that accounts for most of the cases with Neurocognitive decline yet there are various other kinds of medical conditions and dementia that can have similar mental functions; for instance Parkinson’s disease or vascular dementia. Home caring becomes imperative for people who suffer from such disorders as their brains stop working in a normal way. In case a senior suffers from a small stroke or has a benign growth in his brain, he can show signs of cognitive impairment.

3. Delirium

Delirium is usually caused due to few kinds of medications, chronic illness, surgery or incision-related infection and the usual symptoms are disorientation, confusion and impairment of memory which all look slightly like dementia. Delirium comes rapidly and it can’t be cured with effective treatment like treating an infection and stopping a specific medicine which is leading to the consequence. You have to make sure you treat such mood disorders rather than mistaking it for dementia.

4. Disorders in mood or mood swings

If you’ve been suffering from bipolar disorder or major depression, you will face difficulty in focusing on things, clear thinking and making decisions. Loss of memory can worsen depending on the mental and emotional state of a person. However, as per research that was previously published in Psychiatry Clinics of North America, whenever disorders in mood are treated with medicine or some kind of therapy, cognitive impairment can get cured.

5. Substance abuse or alcohol abuse

Consuming too much alcohol, that too for a prolonged time period can be either directly or indirectly liable for loss of memory in the long run. Taking in too much of alcohol can’t just destroy the cells inside the human brain but also worsen all sorts of memory issues. It can also lead to brain injury and boost the risk of overall health issues like liver disease. Healthy people above the age of 65 who are already taking other medicines should curb their alcohol consumption, as suggested by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

A few other common reasons behind memory loss are thyroid, urinary tract infections, deficiency of Vitamin B12, hearing issues, vision problems, and normal pressure hydrocephalus. Visiting a specialist is the only way in which you may know whether or not cognitive impairment is being caused by dementia or some other treatable condition.

An instance of misdiagnosis of dementia

It was in 2017 November that Rob and his wife Jacqueline were informed by their medical professionals that the wife was suffering from frontotemporal dementia which is a kind of neurodegenerative disorder. It was probably said to be the worst kind of dementia which has the power of making you violent, lose the ability to recognize people around you and lose all cognition abilities. They also stated that Jacqueline had a remaining life expectancy of 7 years and that within the next 1-2 year, she won’t be able to recognize her husband, granddaughters, and son.

Out of shock, Jacqueline informed her condition to her granddaughters and made them aware of the fact that within 2 years, she wouldn’t be able to recognize them any longer. Both Jacqueline and her husband accepted and diagnosis and started taking Memantine which is a drug that treats severe Alzheimer’s. Later on, in 2018 October, a PET scan revealed that the wife wasn’t actually suffering from frontotemporal dementia or any other neurodegenerative disorder. She was misdiagnosed. She was not only damaged mentally but was also damaged physically by being put on the wrong medicine.

Given the high rates of dementia diagnoses, it can be safely said that this disease has several symptoms that can correlate with other conditions and this leads to soaring rates of misdiagnosis. Once a doctor suspects you’re suffering from dementia, you should seek the help of an MSO or Medical Second Opinion from another team of leading medical professionals associated with another top hospital. This will ensure you that you receive the best form of diagnosis and later on the right treatment.

Treating Alzheimer’s and dementia patients – The standard care

In the nursing home abuse and neglect cases, the victims most often suffer from any kind of dementia including Alzheimer’s and this disease accounts for 60-80% of the dementia cases. Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, which clearly implies that is worsened with time leading to worsening behavioral and cognitive issues. For instance, a person might have a problem in thinking and difficulty in understanding. Confusion, forgetfulness, and disorientation are few other feelings that they may also experience. Behaviourally, the person can demonstrate changes like not enough restraint, irritability and agitation.

Behavioral alterations among dementia patients

There are many for whom behavioral changes are the most distressing and also the most challenging symptoms at the same time for Alzheimer’s. All such symptoms are the root cause of the deterioration of brain cells and most importantly, they can get worse through environmental triggers and medicines and other medical reasons. Here are a few environmental triggers which can lead to changes:

  • Moving towards a new residence or a new room or to an assisted care living facility or a nursing home. If you’re a resident of Newcastle, seeking the help of dementia care Newcastle can also be one of the reasons for agitation of the patient, more so when the patient has to shift.
  • Misperceived threats
  • Alterations in caregiver arrangements or changes in surroundings
  • Being asked to change clothes or take a bath

Hence, as the patient is trying his best to bring out a sense of the confusing world around him, the above listed environmental factors can play a role in enhancing his fear and facilitating the patient’s agitation, irritability, lack of control and self-care.

The standard of care expected from nursing homes

The nursing home corporations which operate and run the nursing homes need enough reason to know that changes in the environment can place the dementia patient at risk of experiencing a severe injury due to the carelessness of nursing home authorities. Whenever a patient party accuses a Direction of Nursing in a case of neglect and abuse, the nursing home authorities clearly acknowledge and admit the risk of injury that the patients can face in the facility. The director of nursing also admits that the nursing staff can offer these patients with services and treatments which abide by a certain standard of care.

As per the proper standard of care, the nursing home should devise an individualized plan of care to promote the health of the patient, safeguard the safety of the patient and also secure his dignity. The staff within the nursing home should implement proper care and treatment on a regular basis to the patients suffering from dementia. The nursing home authorities including the nurses should regularly evaluate the level of treatment to make sure whatever they provide is effective for the patient’s condition.

Negligence and abuse in nursing homes

Whenever the staff and corporation of a nursing home follow the standard of care that is needed, the nursing home can bar the patient from experiencing avoidable ulcers due to pressure, catastrophic falls and other types of serious injuries. In case they fail to follow the standard of the case, the patient can experience a physical injury. Do you know someone who has been involved in a nursing home negligence case? If yes, it is better to consult an attorney.

Sheer hospital negligence among dementia patients

In a hospital located in New Jersey, there was an instance when a dementia patient self-discharged himself and walked back home in order to stay the rest of the days with his wife. No, this might not seem too much but he wasn’t wearing anything apart from an exposing medical gown and he was even covered with feces and urine from his own venture. On seeing the abysmal condition of her husband, his wife exclaimed that he was not supposed to be released in such a manner. However, the hospital authorities claimed that they found the person to be physically and mentally incapable of being able to express his wish to leave the premises of the hospital.

The spokesman of the hospital also commented on this matter where he was found saying that patients who are medically cleared are considered to be competent enough to have enough legal right to initiate his own discharge and this happens often in a hospital setting. Too many seniors are also pushed to face situations, which could make them harmful and susceptible to injury. This is why it is vital for the patient as well as the patient party to understand when negligence occurs to dementia patients and what needs to be done towards it.

Where the problem lies

The problem lies in the fact that very few understand what dementia is and very few are armed with the appropriate tools to handle serious cases inside the settings of a nursing home or a hospital. Dementia is actually a mental health disorder where the patient gets symptoms which lead to a cognitive decline. There are more than one hospital and nursing homes which don’t realize that dementia patients are complex and they have different kinds of needs to be met.

In most situations, these are the specific kinds of patients who become victims to all sorts of nursing home abuse. According to a study by the National Center on Elder Abuse, patients who suffer from dementia are more likely to be abused by the nursing home authorities. There are many other unexplained reasons for abuse dehydration, unexplained bruising, mood swings, new health issues, and so many other reasons.

Nevertheless, nurses and doctors often are not able to recognize the symptoms of dementia. Not all types of abuse occur on a physical level. Many seniors also have to handle verbal abuse like screaming, calling names and being treated in a non-dignified manner. Drug abuse can also be one of the biggest forms of abuse. There are more than 300,000 nursing homes that have administered anti-psychotic drugs which cause drug abuse. The majority of the patients might not even know whether or not they need medicine.

Does the Nursing Home Reform Act help?

In the year 1987, Congress passed the Nursing Home Reform Act which says that all hospitals and nursing homes should offer activities and services to obtain the highest practicable psychological and mental and physical well-being of every patient. In order to abide by this act, there can be unannounced visits by investigators who can make sure things are running fine.

So, if you’re someone who has a dementia patient at home, you should make sure there is no kind of abuse towards him. Stay aware of how you can protect yourself and your patient by exercising your rights.