Most likely, you'll first see your primary care provider if you have concerns about dementia. In some cases, you may be referred to a doctor trained in nervous system conditions (neurologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot to talk about, it's a good idea to be well-prepared. If you're a caregiver for someone with more advanced dementia, you'll likely be the one gathering information from the doctor. Here's some information to help you get ready.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there's anything you need to do in advance.
- Write down any symptoms, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements being taken.
- Take a family member, friend or caregiver along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to soak up all the information provided during an appointment.
Preparing a list of questions will help make the most of your time with the doctor. List questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For dementia, some basic questions to ask the doctor include:
- What is likely causing my symptoms?
- Are there other possible causes for my symptoms?
- What kinds of tests are necessary?
- Is the condition likely temporary or chronic?
- What's the best course of action?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach being suggested?
- How can dementia and additional health issues best be managed together?
- Are there any restrictions?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine being prescribed?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend?
In addition to the questions that you've prepared to ask your doctor, don't hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don't understand something.
What to expect from your doctor
The doctor is likely to ask you and your caregiver a number of questions such as:
Nov. 22, 2014
- What symptoms are you experiencing? For example, are you having trouble with finding words or remembering events or with focusing attention? Are you getting lost or developing changes in personality?
- When did symptoms begin?
- Have symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve symptoms?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen symptoms?
- Is there a family history of dementia or related conditions such as Huntington's or Parkinson's disease?
- Are there any activities that you have had to stop because of difficulty thinking through them?
- What is dementia? Alzheimer's Association. http://www.alz.org/what-is-dementia.asp. Accessed Aug. 28, 2014.
- Dementia: Hope through research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/dementias/detail_dementia.htm?css. Accessed Aug. 28, 2014.
- Goldman L, et al. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Saunders Elsevier; 2012. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Aug. 28, 2014.
- Halter JB, et al. Hazzard's Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology. 6th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2009. http://www.accessmedicine.com/resourceTOC.aspx?resourceID=540. Accessed Aug. 28, 2014.
- Marx JA, et al. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Mosby Elsevier; 2014. http://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed Aug. 28, 2014.
- Shadlen MF, et al. Risk factors for cognitive decline and dementia. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 29, 2014.
- Press D, et al. Treatment of dementia. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Aug. 29, 2014.
- Caring for a person with Alzheimer's disease. National Institute on Aging. http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/caring-person-alzheimers-disease/about-guide. Accessed Aug. 30, 2014.
- Alternative treatments. Alzheimer's Association. http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_alternative_treatments.asp. Accessed Aug. 30, 2014.
- Natural medicines in the clinical management of Alzheimer's disease. Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. http://www.naturaldatabase.com. Accessed Aug. 30, 2014.
- Preventing Alzheimer's disease: What do we know? National Institute on Aging. http://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/preventing-alzheimers-disease/introduction. Accessed Sept. 2, 2014.
- Lapid MI (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Sept. 12, 2014.
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