Visiting Your Doctor
Consider This Scenario
Meet Laura, an 89-year-old retired grandmother who has recently noticed her memory isn’t as sharp as it used to be. Remembering crucial details about her daily schedule, recent events, and even the names of close friends and family have become increasingly challenging for her. Her husband and children have also observed these changes and are growing concerned. Although they are encouraging her to see a doctor, Laura is hesitant, feeling embarrassed and fearful that her memory problems might indicate a significant issue.
At LivWell Seniors, we empathize with the challenges of memory concerns and the overwhelming task of seeking a proper diagnosis. Recognizing the Alzheimer’s Association as an invaluable member of our Caring Network, we highly recommend those who are navigating the process of seeking a memory diagnosis, to read their informative article about visiting your doctor to better understand the process.
Effective communication with your doctor is important when you are seeking a diagnosis for memory loss. Ask questions, be prepared to answer questions, and be as honest as possible.
Finding Your Doctor
Experts estimate a skilled physician can diagnose Alzheimer’s disease with more than 90% accuracy. The first step in following up on symptoms is finding a doctor you feel comfortable with. Many people contact their primary care physician about their memory or thinking concerns and primary care doctors often oversee the diagnostic process themselves.
Your doctor will evaluate your overall health and identify any conditions that could affect how well your mind is working. When talking to your primary care physician about memory and thinking problems, ask how familiar he or she is with diagnosing dementia and whether there are circumstances in which he or she would refer to a specialist.
The specialists listed below can evaluate memory and thinking issues and diagnose dementia. Some people with unclear symptoms, including those under age 65, may require evaluation by two or more specialists who combine their findings to reach a diagnosis.
- Neurologist, who specializes in diseases of the brain and nervous system.
- Psychiatrist, who are trained in general psychiatry with additional training in mental health and aging.
- Psychologist, who has special training in testing to assess thinking abilities, including memory, attention, language, reading, and problem-solving skills.
- Geriatrician, who specializes in the care of older adults and dementia.
What to Bring to A Visit for Memory Loss
- A list of any changes in your health, including your mood, memory, and behaviors. Make a note of any changes you’ve noticed since your last appointment. Be as specific as possible.
- A list of past and current medical problems: Tell your doctor if other family members had illnesses that caused memory problems.
- A list of current prescriptions and over-the-counter medications.
- A list of vitamins or supplements you’ve added to your medication regimen.
- A list of questions you want to ask.
- Be prepared to answer the doctor’s questions honestly and to the best of your ability.
Questions to Ask About Testing for Memory Loss
It’s normal to have questions and common to forget what you’d like to ask a doctor. Consider bringing a list of questions to your appointment so you’re prepared to discuss your concerns. Let the doctor or other medical professionals know if you need additional information or clarification.
- What tests will be performed?
- What does each test involve?
- How long will the tests take?
- How long will it take to learn the results?