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Dementia: Diagnosis of Alzheimer disease, vascular and Lewy body dementia

CPD Hours



Aged care
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Dementia is not a specific disease. It is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer disease or a series of strokes.

It is a term that describes a collection of symptoms that are a result of damage to areas of the brain, which are responsible for higher higher-level cognitive functions such as reasoning, memory, attention, and language.

More than 100 different diseases have been identified that cause symptoms of dementia.[2]

Dementia aetiology and pathogenesis is unclear, and diagnosis remains complex and challenging. The diagnostic pathway relies on a combination of tests, such as cognitive assessments, imaging, and laboratory tests to reach a diagnosis.[2]

In 2021, the statistical data estimated that there were approximately 386,000 to 472,000 Australians living with dementia.

Dementia prevalence rates among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people are estimated to be 3–5 times higher than the rate for non-indigenous Australians. Dementia was the second leading cause of death in Australia in 2019.[1]

This module discusses the clinical features, pathogenesis, and diagnosis of dementia. It provides an overview of cognitive assessment tools used during the diagnosis process.

This module is aimed at all nurses who provides care to people who present with symptoms or who have been diagnosed with dementia. It will be of interest to anyone involved in nursing who has an interest in neurodegenerative disorders or geriatric medicine.


The terms Alzheimer’s disease and Alzheimer disease are used internationally to describe the same disease. There is no international standard for which term should be used. In this module we use the term Alzheimer disease.

Learning Objective

At the end of this module participants will be able to:

  • Identify the main diseases that cause the symptoms of dementia.
  • Identify the clinical features of dementia.
  • Know the recommended cognitive assessment tests, when to use them, and where to locate them.
  • Know the imaging tests used to diagnose dementia.
  • Describe the innovative research and development that have occurred in dementia care.

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