5 Things to Ask the Doctor After a Dementia Diagnosis

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A dementia diagnosis is life-changing for both diagnosed individuals and those close to them, but you are not alone. One of the best places you can go for dementia help and support is the doctor’s office.

Your loved one’s doctor is an important source of support and information. If you don’t understand something, ask questions until you do. Here are five questions you may want to bring with you to your loved one’s next doctor’s appointment.

These questions will not address all treatment needs, but the answers will help you understand the options you have and help you make informed decisions.

1. Is There Any Chance These Symptoms Look Like Dementia But Aren’t? 

There are a lot of treatable diseases and conditions that have symptoms similar to dementia. For example, your loved one’s memory could also be impacted by a stroke, Parkinson’s disease, or a build-up of fluid in their brain.

Additionally, depression, thyroid problems, medication side effects, excessive use of alcohol, and vitamin deficiency can all cause thinking and memory problems that may improve when the condition is treated or addressed.

Although the doctor probably considered these options before the diagnosis was made, it doesn’t hurt to ask.

2. What Kind of Dementia Is This?

If you’re like most people, you probably think of Alzheimer’s disease when you first hear the word “dementia.” However, dementia is an umbrella term for the disease through which cognitive function and the ability to perform everyday activities undergo a deterioration. Indeed, Alzheimer’s disease falls underneath that umbrella, as do vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, Huntington’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease.

It can be helpful to know what your loved one has been diagnosed with, so you know what to expect and can learn as much as possible about the specific type of dementia that the physician believes is causing these symptoms.

3. What Stage Is the Dementia?

Dementia is a progressive disease, which means it gets worse over time, but it progresses differently in everyone. Symptoms can range from mild memory loss to more severe cognitive difficulties that make it hard to manage daily activities without help. These symptoms are broadly grouped into categories called stages.

Becoming familiar with the stages of dementia can also give you and your family members a general idea of what your loved one’s future may hold so you can make plans accordingly. For example, by the fourth stage of dementia, it’s a good idea for caregivers and loved ones to have discussed and made decisions about the future. By the sixth stage, it usually becomes no longer safe to leave the individual alone, which means supervision is necessary.

4. What Treatment Options Are Available?

Although there is currently no cure, treatments are available that may help relieve some symptoms. Although there are two FDA-approved medications to treat the cognitive symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, the Alzheimer’s Association recommends trying non-drug approaches first. These include exercise, occupational therapy, modifying the environment and tasks, massage therapy, aromatherapy, music therapy, and mental activity.

It’ll be important to work closely with your loved one’s doctor and other members of their health care team to create a treatment plan that evolves throughout the stages of the disease.

5. What Can I Expect from the Future?

You’ll want to find out if your loved one’s doctor will manage their care going forward. If not, you need to determine who will be their primary doctor. You’ll want to ask the doctor for recommendations regarding how long your loved one can continue to work if they are still employed, the safety of your loved one living in their own home, and how to get support so you can help your loved one continue to live their best life after diagnosis.

For example, the doctor might have a recommendation for a memory care community, which keeps residents with dementia engaged and active in a safe, homelike environment and promotes the highest quality of life by adapting the staff, environment, and daily routine to the needs of each individual.

The doctor might also be able to offer some insights about when it’s the right time to consider long-term care. For more information, download our eBook “When is the Right Time for Memory Care?”, a guide for family caregivers on how to know when it’s the right time to consider moving an elderly parent or loved one to a memory care community.

 

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