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Diagnosing Dementia

Amber B. Heape, ClinScD, CCC-SLP, CDP

April 18, 2016

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Question

Can SLPs diagnose dementia? What should I do if I see signs and there is no diagnosis?

Answer

The actual diagnosis must be made by a medical doctor.  SLPs cannot diagnose a patient with dementia. If the patient is far enough into the disease process, the medical doctor may determine that the patient cannot safely make decisions for themselves. They might appoint someone as power of attorney, which requires a second doctor’s authorization, confirming that the patient is not capable of making their own medical and/or financial decisions. The SLP can perform cognitive testing with the patient (mental status/stage testing), as well as ascertain the evidence base and validity behind the tests. 

If you see signs but there is no diagnosis of dementia, contact the doctor to present your concerns and testing results, or to request a consultation. Whether we have the actual diagnosis or not, SLPs can still treat the symptoms, because dementia is a group of symptoms. We can treat those symptoms within our scope of practice. 

Amber Heape is a dedicated advocate for the necessity and skilled nature of therapy services.  She is the Regional Clinical Specialist for a large healthcare company, where she works with SNFs in 3 states on documentation compliance, clinical education, and clinical programs for PT, OT, and ST. She co-authored the company Trach and Vent Program as well as the Dysphagia Program. 


amber b heape

Amber B. Heape, ClinScD, CCC-SLP, CDP

Amber is a dedicated advocate for the necessity and skilled nature of therapy services.  She is the Regional Clinical Specialist for a large healthcare company, where she works with SNFs in 3 states on documentation compliance, clinical education, and clinical programs for PT, OT, and ST. She co-authored the company Trach and Vent Program as well as the Dysphagia Program. 
 
Amber is a doctoral student at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions, with a research focus on clinical supervision and student self-efficacy.  She is also an adjunct professor.  She has authored numerous continuing education courses and has presented at state and national conferences across the United States. Amber is a former SCSHA President and board member of the Council of State Association Presidents.  Amber’s clinical passion is serving the aging population, and making a difference in their quality of life.  She is a Certified Dementia Professional and volunteers with organizations that promote and preserve quality care in the elderly.  


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