Doctors Who Treat Dementia
can be caused by many things and it can take many forms. Some are reversible;
however, most are not. It can only be diagnosed by a doctor.
Primary Care Physician
If you are concerned about changes in memory, thinking, behavior,
or mood, in yourself or someone you care about, contact your primary care physician
(PCP). They will perform a physical exam and discuss your symptoms. Your doctor
may order tests to determine if there is a physical cause for your symptoms, or
refer you to a specialist. They will assess your mental state.
Getting a Second Opinion
no blood test for dementia. Diagnosing it is as much an art as it is a science.
You may want to get a second opinion. Don’t worry about offending your doctor
or specialist. Most medical professionals understand the benefit of a second
opinion. Your doctor should be happy to refer you to another doctor for a
If not, you
can contact the Alzheimer ’s disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center for help by calling
following specialists may be involved in diagnosing dementia.
health care in older adults. They know how the body changes as it ages and
whether symptoms indicate a serious problem.
Geriatric psychiatrists specialize in the mental and emotional
problems of older adults and can assess memory and thinking problems.
Neurologists specialize in abnormalities of the brain and
central nervous system and can conduct specialized testing of the nervous system
as well as review and interpret brain scans.
Neuropsychologists can conduct tests of memory and thinking.
Memory Clinics and Centers
clinics and centers, such as the Alzheimer’s Disease Research Centers, have
teams of specialists who work together to diagnose the problem. For example, a
geriatrician can look at your general health, a neuropsychologist can test your
thinking and memory, and a neurologist can use scanning technology to “see”
inside your brain. Tests are often done at a single centralized location, which
can speed up diagnosis.
A Word about Clinical Trials
Taking part in a clinical trial may be an option worth your
consideration. Start your research at a credible place such as the Alzheimer’s Disease Clinical
Trials Database. This is a joint project of the National Institute
on Aging (NIA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is maintained
by the NIA’s Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center.
Preparing to See Your Doctor
To get the most from your time with your doctor, it is helpful to
be prepared. Your doctor will ask you a series of questions about your symptoms.
Writing down information ahead of time will help you answer accurately.
Questions Your Doctor Will Ask
- What are your symptoms?
- When did they start?
- Do you have them all the time or do they come and go?
- What makes them better?
- What makes them worse?
- How severe are they?
- Are they getting worse or staying the same?
- Have you had to stop doing things you used to do?
- Does anyone in your family have a genetic form of dementia,
Huntington’s, or Parkinson’s?
- What other conditions do you have?
- What medications do you take?
- Have you been under any unusual stress lately? Any major life
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
In addition to being prepared to answer your doctor’s questions,
it is helpful to write down questions you want to ask your doctor. The
following are some questions you might want to ask. Any others you have should
be added to the list.
- What is causing my symptoms?
- Is it treatable?
- Is it reversible?
- What tests do you recommend?
- Will medication help? Does it have side effects?
- Will this go away or is it chronic?
- Is it going to get worse?
Coping, Support, and Resources
It is frightening to be diagnosed with dementia. You will likely
have many feelings about this. It can be helpful to talk about your feelings.
You can talk with family, friends, and clergy. You might want to consider
professional counseling or a support group. Try to learn as much as you can
about your condition. Make sure arrangements are made for your ongoing care, and
take care of yourself. Stay physically active and involved with others. Let
someone you trust help with decision-making and responsibilities.
It is also frightening if a family member is diagnosed with dementia.
You, too, should talk about your feelings. Counseling may help, as can a
support group. Make sure that you will have some help caring for your family
member. Learn as much as you can about the condition. It’s equally important
that you take care of yourself. Stay active and involved in your life. It can
be difficult and frustrating to care for someone with dementia. Don’t try to do