How to Talk About a Potential Dementia Diagnosis with a Physician

Potential Dementia Diagnosis
Get support navigating a potential dementia diagnosis.

Shame. Fear. Embarrassment. The thoughts and emotions associated with a potential dementia diagnosis may cause older adults to keep their suspicions to themselves. A newly released AARP survey peeled away some of the layers of emotion to get to the root cause – namely, a concern over losing independence and becoming a problem to others.

While there is some validity to those fears, there are also some misconceptions fueling them. For example, roughly 1/2 of the participants, who were adults age 40 and over, believe they are likely to get dementia as they get older. The reality is that just over 10% of seniors over age 65 are identified as having Alzheimer’s disease.

Because of this, it is important for seniors to speak with their physicians for the realistic, straightforward information they want about a potential dementia diagnosis – particularly if any warning signs of dementia are being observed, such as:

  • Memory decline that is disruptive to day-to-day life
  • Planning and/or problem-solving challenges
  • Difficulties with accomplishing once-familiar activities
  • Confusion and disorientation to place and time
  • Vision issues and difficulty determining color/contrast and judging distance
  • Writing/speaking changes
  • Losing items and leaving them in unusual places
  • A decrease in judgment
  • Social withdrawal
  • Mood/personality differences

Here are a few recommendations to overcome any reluctance in speaking with the doctor about dementia, and exactly how to make the conversation as effective as possible.

  • Don’t wait. The natural instinct is sometimes to procrastinate bringing up something that could potentially be so life-changing. Nevertheless, time is of the essence in receiving a correct diagnosis and the most effective treatment.
  • Bring a companion. It is comforting to have the support of a reliable caregiver, friend or family member during the appointment. Ideally, this person can provide more information to the doctor in addition to any concerns being noticed from their perspective.
  • Make comparisons between then and now. Share with the doctor the particular changes that are causing concern. For example, a family member might be a retired math teacher who, up until last month, didn’t need to think twice about balancing the checkbook, but recently is experiencing some confusion with the task.

The physician can review medicines to see if adverse reactions are generating a problem, and schedule assessments and tests to look for the best plan of action.

JFS Care, the Jewish Family Services home health experts and caregiving companions, are always on hand to accompany seniors to medical appointments and procedures, and also to aid in making life easier and more manageable in a variety of different ways as well. Reach out to us online or call at (213) 383-2273 to get more details. See our full service area here.