TALKING TO YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT DEMENTIA

Talking to your doctor about dementia requires thought and much planning. Making vague statements like “I seem to be having trouble with my memory,” or “I don’t remember things the way I used to,” will only bring a response of, “what do you expect at your age,” or “we all have those moments when we forget as we age.” When you talk to your doctor about dementia, you need to keep in mind that this is the first conversation.

Doctors today are working under a very tight schedule. A recent analysis of office visits found that patients when first speaking their concerns, only speak for 12 seconds before being interrupted by the doctor.  The doctor must now account for every question and answer in their electronic record which is then tracked by national organizations.

If you have been seeing this doctor for high blood pressure, he will have to ask you if you have been taking your medication, monitoring your blood pressure, any symptoms, etc.  All the while you sense the time slipping away, while you haven’t talked about what you came for, your worries concerning dementia.

To stay on track with your concerns you must:

  • Come prepared – you need to have a written account of what you have been experiencing. The book The End of Alzheimer’s is a very good resource for creating this account. In reading the many case studies, you can make your own notes on your experiences. A woman in the book, Eleanor, describes how she first noticed “facial blindness,” where she no longer recognized faces, she lost her mental clarity later in the day, she was having more difficulty following complex conversations and movie plots, she had problems remembering words, etc. Reading other people’s accounts of their loses, can lead you to write a very specific account of your own memory loses.
  • Bring someone with you – someone who you have confidence in, who will speak up and be able to clearly state that they have witnessed these changes in you as well.
  • Come with a plan – if you have been reading The End of Alzheimer’s you can begin by stating what you have already done on your own. Give a written account of the steps you have taken to; change your diet, reduce your stress, ensure quality and adequate quantity of sleep, and removed toxins from your environment. Sharing the steps you have already taken demonstrates to the doctor how serious you are about your mental health.
  • Know that you will have to have follow up appointments, unless the doctor is totally un-receptive to your goal of fighting dementia. In that case you will have to find another healthcare practitioner to help you. A doctor who is open to the idea that dementia isn’t going to be cured by a magic pill – someday.

Virginia Garberding RN

Certified in Restorative Nursing and Gerontology