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Getting a Doctor’s Assessment for a Loved One With Early Signs of Alzheimer’s

When you suspect that your loved one may be in the early stages of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, the very thought of the road ahead can be overwhelming.

If you are like many, your first step might be to reach out for resources and arm yourself with as much information as possible. That’s a good place to start. And, we have some tips to help you.

But the time comes when you know you need to approach your loved one. Because, at this point, your goal is to get him or her to the doctor for a professional assessment. That means sitting down for a candid talk.

Here are three tips to make achieving your goal easier. They are based upon our experience as well as recommendations from the Alzheimer’s Association, the Alzheimer’s Society and the National Institute of Health.

  1. Ask your loved one how he or she feels. Find a time when you are both relaxed and you have time. Don’t rush this conversation. Refrain from using authoritative phrases such as “I think you need to...” or “You’re forgetting things”. And there is no need to mention Alzheimer’s or dementia at this point. Instead use phrases such as “I thought I noticed that you were having a hard time remembering…”. Then, cap off each statement with “What do you think?” And stop to listen. You may find that he or she is relieved to be able to talk about their memory lapses. Or, of course, they may deny it altogether. Be gentle and patient if this happens. But don’t give up.
     
  2. Discuss setting up a doctor appointment for a check-up. Once you have broached the subject, your next step is to get your loved one to agree to see the doctor. One of the best ways to achieve this is by suggesting a simple “check-up”.  Doing so shifts the conversation back to a neutral point, pushing opinions and emotions off to one side. (After all, only the doctor has the answers.) Try a soft approach such as “Dad, let’s set an appointment for a check-up. It may turn out that you only need a medication adjustment, or have a vitamin deficiency.” This lessens the threat and shifts them towards a routine they are familiar with; a check-up. However, if your loved one continues to refuse, you will need to contact the doctor on your own. In that case, you can ask their office to call your loved one to schedule a check-up. That may just give you the extra professional “boost” you need.
     
  3. Speak with the doctor in advance about your concerns. Be sure to schedule a short call with the doctor in advance of the appointment. Make your concerns very clear. Share the most troubling instances of memory lapse with him or her. Be prepared with notes you’ve taken and have a list of their medications handy, in case they ask.

We know how stressful navigating through these waters can be! Make sure, through all of your efforts, that you are taking care of yourself. Don’t go it alone. Find a local support group. (Anthem Memory Care communities offer free monthly support groups.) Reach out to those individuals in your life whom you can trust and who can help you in your efforts to make the right decisions for your loved one.

Above all, when friends and families ask “What can I do to help?”, let them help!