One study revealed that about 3.4 million people in the United States aged seventy-one and above experience some form of dementia. If you are worried that your aging parent belonged to this group, you can only be certain if your parent has been diagnosed by a reputable doctor. Considering that it takes several visits and evaluation to properly assess dementia, you may consider the following pointers to help your doctor make an accurate and timely diagnosis:
Keep Your Parent’s Medical Information Hand
While it may require a bit of work, it is extremely helpful to have your parent’s medication information ready. Make a list of your parent’s past and current health conditions including the year of diagnosis and duration of the illness, if possible, as well as all the medications and dosages your parent is taking including herbal supplements and vitamins. Make sure that you also bring copies of laboratory, imaging, and other diagnostic reports such as CAT scans or MRI’s from the last five years.
Take Note of Changes in Behavior
You are most likely worried that your aging parent is suffering from dementia because you have been noticing changes in his or her behavior and demeanor. Prior to your doctor’s appointment, make a list of worrisome behaviors and pay specific attention to subtle signs of dementia such as difficulty recollecting recent memories (e.g. What they ate for lunch) while they can readily recall those that happen many years ago, confusion, difficulty finding the right words, loss of interest in hobbies or usual activities, mood changes, and a declining sense of direction.
To ensure that you have a more objective observation, ask other family members or close friends who interact with your parent regularly about the changes they have noticed themselves. Make sure that you inform the doctor of everything you wrote down as well as the individuals who provided you with other information.
Explain the Changes Your Parent is Going Through
More than just reciting the changes in behavior that you have taken down, you should clearly explain how your parent changed. This is particularly important if you are visiting a new doctor who hasn’t met your parent in the past. Give concrete examples and situations on why you say that your parent’s behavior has significantly changed from before.
Make the Most of Your Appointment
Instead of relying on memory, make sure that you list down all the questions you want the doctor to address. If you have numerous queries, prioritize your questions so that you can be assured that the important ones would be answered on your visit. If you do not understand the answers, do not be afraid to ask for clarification.
If the doctor is recommending other medical tests, prescribing medications, or introducing a treatment plan, make sure that you fully understand the necessity, goals, and potential downside of what he is suggesting. Since you cannot process all information during your appointment, write down the essential parts of the conversation so you can process them later. Ask the doctor for contact information should you need to get in touch with him for other concerns.
Dementia is a serious condition that affects one’s memory, thinking, problem-solving, and other brain functions. While there is no known “cure” for dementia per se, early detection and intervention can significantly slow down the progression of the disease, which is why you should let your aging parent be diagnosed appropriately if you are noticing dementia-like symptoms. Use the tips above for a more productive doctor’s visit.
Resources on Dementia That Can Help You:
- Dementia Research Center
- National Alzheimer’s and Dementia Resource Center
- Social Care Institute for Excellence Dementia Resources
- Dementia Friendly America
Tools on Dementia That Can Help You:
- Dementia Risk Calculator
- Dementia Quick Screen
- Dementia Pathways Tool
- Self-Administered Gercognitive Exam (SAGE)
Do you find the tips mentioned here helpful? Are there things you want to share that can help other readers who are worried that their aging parent has dementia? Do you have other concerns about dementia that you want us to discuss? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.