How to Talk to the Doctor About an Early Diagnosis of Dementia

Learn tips for effective communication with the doctor about an early diagnosis of dementia.

Shame. Fear. Embarrassment. The thoughts and feelings associated with a potential early diagnosis of dementia may cause seniors to keep their suspicions to themselves. A recently available AARP survey peeled away some of the layers of emotion to get to the reason – namely, worry over losing independence and becoming a problem to others.

While there is some truth to those concerns, there are additionally some misconceptions fueling them. For example, roughly 1/2 of the participants, who were adults age 40 and over, believe they’re likely to get dementia as they age. The truth is that just over 10% of seniors over age 65 are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

As a result, it’s vital for older adults to communicate with their doctors for the realistic, straightforward information they need – especially if any warning signs of dementia are being noticed, such as:

  • Memory decline that is disruptive to daily life
  • Planning and/or problem solving challenges
  • Difficulties with accomplishing once-familiar activities
  • Disorientation and confusion to time and place
  • Vision issues and problems determining color/contrast and judging distance
  • Speaking/writing changes
  • Losing things and leaving them in unusual spots
  • A decline in judgment
  • Social withdrawal
  • Personality/mood differences

The following are some ideas to manage any reluctance in speaking with the doctor about dementia, and how to make the conversation as productive as you possibly can.

  • Don’t wait. The normal instinct may be to procrastinate bringing up something that could potentially be so life-changing. Nevertheless, time is of the essence in obtaining a proper diagnosis together with the most effective treatment.
  • Bring a buddy. It is comforting to have the support of a reliable friend, family member, or caregiver at the appointment. Ideally, this person can offer more information to the physician as well as any concerns being noticed from their perspective.
  • Compare then and now. Share with the doctor the particular changes that are causing concern. For instance, a person might be a retired math teacher who, up until last month, didn’t have to think twice about balancing the checkbook, but lately is experiencing some difficulty with the task.

The doctor can review prescriptions to see if side effects are creating an issue, and schedule assessments and tests to determine the best plan of action.

Golden Harmony, the leading provider of companion care in Raleigh and the surrounding areas, is always on hand to accompany older adults to medical appointments and procedures, and also to aid in making life easier and more manageable in a number of other ways as well. Email or call us at 919-426-7522 for additional details.