Preparing for your Doctor’s appointment to Discuss Concerns Surrounding Dementia and what to expect.

Most likely, you’ll first see your primary care provider if you have concerns about dementia. In some cases, you may be referred to a doctor trained in nervous system conditions (neurologist).

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Because appointments can be brief, and because there’s often a lot to talk about, it’s a good idea to be well prepared. If you’re a caregiver for someone with more advanced dementia, you’ll likely be the one gathering information from the doctor. Here’s some information to help you get ready.

What you can do

  • Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, be sure to ask if there’s anything you need to do in advance.
  • Write down any symptoms, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
  • Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
  • Make a list of all medications, vitamins or supplements being taken.
  • Take a family member, friend or caregiver along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to soak up all the information provided during an appointment.

Preparing a list of questions will help make the most of your time with the doctor. List questions from most important to least important in case time runs out. For dementia, some basic questions to ask the doctor include:

  • What is likely causing symptoms?
  • Are there other possible causes for symptoms?
  • What kinds of tests are necessary?
  • Is the condition likely temporary or chronic?
  • What’s the best course of action?
  • What are the alternatives to the primary approach being suggested?
  • How can dementia and additional health issues best be managed together?

Are there What to expect from your doctor
The doctor is likely to ask you and your caregiver a number of questions such as:

  • What symptoms are you experiencing? For example, are you having trouble with finding words or remembering events, focusing attention, developing changes in personality, or getting lost?
  • When did symptoms begin?
  • Have symptoms been continuous or occasional?
  • How severe are symptoms?
  • What, if anything, seems to improve symptoms?
  • What, if anything, appears to worsen symptoms?
  • Is there a family history of dementia or related conditions such as Huntington’s or Parkinson’s disease?
  • Are there any activities that you have had to stop because of difficulty thinking through them?

Tests and diagnosis

Memory loss and other dementia symptoms have many causes, so diagnosing dementia and other related conditions can be challenging and may require several appointments.

To diagnose your condition, your doctor will review your medical history and symptoms and conduct a physical examination. Doctors may order a number of tests to diagnose dementia and rule out other conditions.

Cognitive and neuropsychological tests
In these tests, doctors will evaluate your thinking (cognitive) function. A number of tests measure thinking skills such as memory, orientation, reasoning and judgment, language skills, and attention.

Doctors use these tests to determine whether you have dementia, how severe it is and what part of your brain is affected.

Neurological evaluation
In a neurological evaluation, doctors will evaluate your movement, senses, balance, reflexes and other areas. Doctors may use the neurological evaluation to diagnose other conditions.

Brain scans
Doctors may order brain scans, such as a CT or MRI scan, to check for evidence of stroke or bleeding and to rule out the possibility of a tumour.

Laboratory tests
Simple blood tests can rule out physical problems that can affect brain function, such as vitamin B-12 deficiency or an underactive thyroid gland.

Psychiatric evaluation
You may meet with a mental health specialist (psychologist or psychiatrist) who may evaluate whether depression or another psychological condition may be causing your symptoms.

  • Any restrictions?
  • Is there a generic alternative to the medicine being prescribed?
  • Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend?

In addition to the questions that you’ve prepared to ask your doctor, don’t hesitate to ask questions during your appointment at any time that you don’t understand something.

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