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Good, Bucy, Elson & Drescher, attorneys at law

Taking a Dementia Patient to the Doctor

People suffering from dementia are losing many aspects of brain function that once came easily to them. They suffer from memory issues; they lose ability to process and convey their thoughts and feelings; they struggle with normal, everyday tasks. However, with all this loss, dementia patients can be very good at masking their symptoms from others, including their doctors. Even when cognitive abilities are affected by disease, dementia does not lower a person’s IQ, leaving them quite effective in convincing a doctor that nothing is wrong.

There are a few things that can be done to help ensure the doctor is getting the proper information. First, try to make an appointment with a geriatrician, a doctor specializing in aging. Because of their field, a geriatrician is less likely to be misled by masking. Writing a letter to the physician prior to the appointment is also not a bad idea. Be sure to list specific incidences that are of concern to you, including the frequency of the event and even the actual dates, if you have them. The more specific information the doctor has, the better he or she will be in asking the right questions and not being side-tracked by the patient’s avoidance techniques.

During the appointment, don’t be afraid to chime in and answer the physician’s questions when you feel your loved one is not answering accurately. For instance, if the doctor asks “Can you use the phone?” and your loved one responds, “Yes!”, make sure the doctor knows that this means they can only speak to whomever is calling, but becomes completely confused if they need to pick up the phone and dial a number.

While this may seem trivial, the information is extremely important to a physician whose goal is to understand where your loved one truly is on a cognitive level. If doctors are not provided with accurate information, they can wrongly conclude that their patient does not need services or assistance from the various agencies. They may also miss an opportunity to order further testing which could result in diagnosis. The few Alzheimer’s drugs that exist work best earliest in the progression of the disease and the earlier they are started the more successful they are.

Your loved one may be unhappy with you for qualifying their answers. If the dementia is more severe, they will forget soon. If not, remember that, even if they do not understand, you are acting in their best interests to get them the best assistance available. If you need someone to talk to about resources, or more specific help, please feel free to contact me to set up a complimentary consultation so that we can discuss how I may be of service.

Cheri Elson
Gray Matters Consulting

Other useful sites:
Elders Hiding Dementia Symptoms from Their Doctor
Dementia Patients Need an Advocate

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Good, Bucy & Elson, Attorneys at Law

Robert W. Good, Attorney at Law
Scott C. Bucy, Attorney at Law
Rheanna Wohosky, Paralegal
Jo Hanna Dorris, Legal Assistant

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