If you or someone you care for is experiencing problems with memory loss, make an appointment to see the doctor right away.
Good communication between the doctor, the person with dementia and his caregiver is crucial. As the needs of the person with dementia and his caregiver change, regular visits to the doctor will help in getting the best care possible.
Preparing for your appointment
When a visit is short it may be difficult to think of all the things you want to ask or to take in complicated medical information.
Download our Checklist: Preparing for your doctor’s visit to help you prepare.
Here are ideas that could make your next visit to the doctor easier, whether you are attending the appointment for yourself or for someone you are supporting:
- Ask a family member or friend to go with you for emotional support.
- Choose a time of day when you will both be well rested and at ease for your visit.
- Take along a list of the prescribed and over the counter medications that the person with the symptoms is taking.
- Note any personal and family medical history that may be important.
- Make a list of symptoms, when they began and whether they have changed over time. Note the things that make the symptoms better or worse.
- Decide the three most important questions you want to ask the doctor. Consider asking for a longer appointment if you have many urgent matters to discuss.
- If you are a family member or close friend of the person who is experiencing memory loss, remember that you have valuable information to share with the doctor. Your questions and concerns are important.
At the doctor’s office
Ask your most important questions early in the visit. The doctor will let you know if all of your questions can be answered today or if there is a need for a follow-up visit.
- Give the doctor specific examples of things that concern you. For example: “My spouse (friend) got lost on her way home from the store last week.”
- Answer the doctor’s questions honestly and to the best of your ability.
- Take notes as you talk with the doctor to help you remember what was said. It may be easier for the family member or friend to take notes so the other person can focus on listening and asking questions.
- Ask the doctor to explain tests that are planned and how long it will take to get a diagnosis.
- If you do not understand medical words or need more information, consider asking for printed material that explains the condition, tests or recommended treatments.
- Ask the doctor to write down any medical terms, particularly if English is not your first language.
- Ask the doctor to explain all the treatment options available, both those involving medication and those related to providing day to day care.
- Repeat what you think the doctor said in your own words. This lets you check your understanding of the information provided.
- Schedule your next visit before leaving the doctor’s office.
When you get home
- Review the notes from the visit on your own or with the person who recorded them.
- Keep a journal. Write down the things that you are learning, further questions for the doctor and changes you are observing. If the person is taking medications, record any reactions. Take this journal when you next visit the doctor.
- Make a note of questions as they arise. Get all the information you need.
- Consider talking to family and friends about health care decisions you are making.
- Request a second opinion if it would make you feel more comfortable.
Questions to ask your care team
Whether you are seeing your family doctor or a specialist, here are questions you can ask for more information:
- Where can I go in the community to get help?
- What kinds of activities can I do to keep active?
- What kinds of changes should I expect over the next six months or 12 months?
- Would any of the current treatments for my dementia symptoms be suitable for me?
- What can I do to lessen the side effects of my medication?
- When should I come back for my next appointment?
For further information, call your local Alzheimer Society.
Last Updated: 08/14/12