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Dementia - what to ask your doctor

What to ask your doctor about dementia; Alzheimer disease - what to ask your doctor; Cognitive impairment - what to ask your doctor

You are caring for someone who has dementia. Below are questions you may want to ask the health care provider to help you take care of that person.

Questions

Are there ways that I can help someone remember things around the home?

How should I talk with someone who is losing or has lost their memory?

  • What type of words should I use?
  • What is the best way to ask them questions?
  • What is the best way to give instructions to someone with memory loss?

How can I help someone with dressing? Are some clothes or shoes easier? Will an occupational therapist be able to teach us skills?

What is the best way to react when the person I am caring for becomes confused, hard to manage, or does not sleep well?

  • What can I do to help the person calm down?
  • Are there activities that are more likely to agitate them?
  • Can I make changes around the home that will help keep the person calmer?

What should I do if the person I am caring for wanders around?

  • How can I keep them safe when they do wander?
  • Are there ways to keep them from leaving the home?

How can I keep the person I am caring for from hurting themselves around the house?

  • What should I hide?
  • Are there changes in the bathroom or kitchen I should make?
  • Are they able to take their own medicines?

What are the signs that driving is becoming unsafe?

  • How often should this person have a driving evaluation?
  • What are the ways I can lessen the need for driving?
  • What are the steps to take if the person I am caring for refuses to stop driving?

What diet should I give this person?

  • Are there hazards I should watch for while this person is eating?
  • What should I do if this person starts to choke?

References

Budson AE, Solomon PR. Life adjustments for memory loss, Alzheimer's disease, and dementia. In: Budson AE, Solomon PR, eds. Memory Loss, Alzheimer's Disease, and Dementia: A Practical Guide for Clinicians. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 25.

Fazio S, Pace D, Maslow K, Zimmerman S, Kallmyer B. Alzheimer's Association dementia care practice recommendations. Gerontologist. 2018;58(Suppl_1):S1-S9. PMID: 29361074 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29361074.

  • Alzheimer disease

    Animation

  •  

    Alzheimer disease - Animation

    Imagine waking up this morning, and not being able to remember your own name, or recognize your spouse? While Alzheimer disease is a more gradual process, over time it can destroy memory to the point where people can't even remember the simplest and most important details of their lives. Let's talk more about Alzheimer disease. Alzheimer disease is a type of dementia, a loss of brain function that makes it harder and harder to think and speak. To understand what causes Alzheimer, we need to look inside the brain. In a normal brain, nerves send messages to one another. In people with Alzheimer disease, abnormal proteins clump in the brain, damaging nerve cells so they can no longer send the messages needed to think clearly. So, why do some people get Alzheimer, and others do not? Getting older itself doesn't cause Alzheimer disease. It's not a part of the normal aging process. Alzheimer does seem to run in families, though. So if you have a close relative, like a sister or parent, with Alzheimer, you may be more likely to get the disease. Usually when Alzheimer disease starts, people have trouble remembering simple things, like their phone number, or where they put their car keys. But, as the disease progresses, memory loss gets worse. People with Alzheimer find it hard to have conversations or complete simple tasks, like getting dressed. They can also become angry or depressed. Those in the later stages of the disease can no longer care for themselves. They lose the ability to recognize even close family members. To diagnose Alzheimer disease, doctors prescribe tests of mental ability. They also prescribe medical tests to rule out diseases that can make it harder to think clearly, such as a brain tumor or stroke. As far as treatments for Alzheimer disease, right now, there isn't a cure. A few drugs can slow memory loss and control depression and aggressiveness from the disease. Despite what you may have read, there isn't any proof that vitamins or other supplements can prevent or treat Alzheimer. However, eating a low-fat diet that's high in vitamin E and C, and rich in omega-3 fatty acids may keep your brain healthier. Alzheimer disease is different in each person. Some people decline quickly and die within just a few years, while others can live for two decades with the disease. If you have a family member with Alzheimer, talk to your doctor about ways to protect your own memory. And, call right away if you have any significant memory loss. Though it may be normal forgetfulness that comes with getting older, the sooner you get it checked out, the earlier you can start treatment if you need it.

  • Alzheimer disease

    Alzheimer disease - illustration

    Aged nervous tissue is less able to rapidly communicate with other neural tissues.

    Alzheimer disease

    illustration

  • Alzheimer disease

    Animation

  •  

    Alzheimer disease - Animation

    Imagine waking up this morning, and not being able to remember your own name, or recognize your spouse? While Alzheimer disease is a more gradual process, over time it can destroy memory to the point where people can't even remember the simplest and most important details of their lives. Let's talk more about Alzheimer disease. Alzheimer disease is a type of dementia, a loss of brain function that makes it harder and harder to think and speak. To understand what causes Alzheimer, we need to look inside the brain. In a normal brain, nerves send messages to one another. In people with Alzheimer disease, abnormal proteins clump in the brain, damaging nerve cells so they can no longer send the messages needed to think clearly. So, why do some people get Alzheimer, and others do not? Getting older itself doesn't cause Alzheimer disease. It's not a part of the normal aging process. Alzheimer does seem to run in families, though. So if you have a close relative, like a sister or parent, with Alzheimer, you may be more likely to get the disease. Usually when Alzheimer disease starts, people have trouble remembering simple things, like their phone number, or where they put their car keys. But, as the disease progresses, memory loss gets worse. People with Alzheimer find it hard to have conversations or complete simple tasks, like getting dressed. They can also become angry or depressed. Those in the later stages of the disease can no longer care for themselves. They lose the ability to recognize even close family members. To diagnose Alzheimer disease, doctors prescribe tests of mental ability. They also prescribe medical tests to rule out diseases that can make it harder to think clearly, such as a brain tumor or stroke. As far as treatments for Alzheimer disease, right now, there isn't a cure. A few drugs can slow memory loss and control depression and aggressiveness from the disease. Despite what you may have read, there isn't any proof that vitamins or other supplements can prevent or treat Alzheimer. However, eating a low-fat diet that's high in vitamin E and C, and rich in omega-3 fatty acids may keep your brain healthier. Alzheimer disease is different in each person. Some people decline quickly and die within just a few years, while others can live for two decades with the disease. If you have a family member with Alzheimer, talk to your doctor about ways to protect your own memory. And, call right away if you have any significant memory loss. Though it may be normal forgetfulness that comes with getting older, the sooner you get it checked out, the earlier you can start treatment if you need it.

  • Alzheimer disease

    Alzheimer disease - illustration

    Aged nervous tissue is less able to rapidly communicate with other neural tissues.

    Alzheimer disease

    illustration

A Closer Look

 

Talking to your MD

 

Self Care

 
 

Review Date: 10/13/2018

Reviewed By: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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