People who have dementia due to Alzheimer's disease need regular medical care to address a range of health and behavioral issues. If you provide care for a loved one who has dementia, you're sure to have lots of questions for his or her doctor — and limited time. To get the most out of your loved one's medical appointments, consider these seven tips.
1. Schedule wisely
Plan appointments for your loved one's best time of day and, if possible, when the doctor's office is least crowded. Bring snacks and water and a portable activity your loved one enjoys.
If going to the doctor has been a problem in the past, wait until the day of the appointment to tell your loved one. If necessary, offer a reward after the visit, such as stopping for ice cream on the way home.
2. Be prepared
Make a list of issues you'd like to address with the doctor, such as concerns about medication side effects or aggressive behavior. Make a list of every medication your loved one takes, even over-the-counter medications and supplements, or bring the labeled containers in a bag. If your loved one lives in a facility, relay medications that your loved one is taking there or any concerns staff members might have.
Early in the disease, be sure to have your loved one sign a privacy release form at the doctor's office, so the doctor can freely discuss your loved one's medical condition with you.
3. Be specific
Be ready to answer questions about your loved one's symptoms and behavior. Have you noticed any changes in your loved one's health, memory, mood or behavior? When did the changes begin?
Do you have concerns about your loved one's ability to drive or live independently? As the disease progresses, your insight might be the critical factor in determining what's best for your loved one.
If the doctor prescribes medication for your loved one, find out exactly what time of day and how much of the drug should be taken. Ask why the medication is being prescribed and how long it might be before you see any improvement. Also, ask your doctor what side effects might occur.
4. Take notes
Bring a pad and pen to jot down information from the doctor. You might also record the conversation so that you can listen to it again later. Or bring a friend or another family member and ask him or her to take notes or to stay with your loved one while you take notes. If you don't understand something the doctor tells you, ask for clarification.
5. Consider the future
Ask the doctor to discuss what to expect in the next year or two. You might ask about advance directives, long term care or nursing home placement. You might also discuss hospice or palliative care. Knowing what to expect can help you prepare.
6. Ask for referrals or recommendations
If you need help, ask. The doctor can refer you to various community resources, such as the local area agency on aging, meal services, senior centers, respite care and support groups.
7. Deal promptly with conflict
If something annoys you about a particular appointment or if a misunderstanding arises, discuss it with the doctor right away. Work as a team to resolve the problem, rather than rushing to switch doctors. A change could be confusing to your loved one and detrimental to his or her care in the long run.
Medical Appointment Checklist (PDF file requiring Adobe Reader)