What type of doctors diagnoses dementia?
Once you’ve recognized that your loved one is struggling with memory loss and daily living activities, it’s time to ask for help. Knowing who to turn to can be an essential first step to getting your loved one the help that they need. In fact, early diagnosis can help your loved one to get remedial medications, therapies and other assistance that can help you all.
Start with your primary care physician. They can recommend further testing and help to point toward specialists for further diagnosis. They are also likely to be aware of changes in personality and physical conditions as you are. Referrals to physician specialists in geriatric (elderly) conditions are likely. In addition to normal memory loss with aging, there are several types of dementia including Alzheimer’s. Medical professionals will help determine what is causing you or your loved one’s conditions.
Depending on your loved one’s symptoms, specialists such as a neuropsychologist, geriatrician or specialist in memory disorders may be consulted. Medical professionals who conduct testing such as lab work to rule out thyroid disorders, or imaging of the brain, will likely be involved in forming a diagnosis. You may be referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist to gauge behavioral conditions. Dementia symptoms of depression, agitation and aggression in the dementia patient are treated by a psychologist or psychiatrist.
Once a dementia diagnosis is reached, a neurologist, usually with a specialty in dementia or Alzheimer’s, is needed to formulate treatment. Neurologists specialize in disorders of the brain and nervous system. A psychologist or psychiatrist specializing in geriatric conditions may also be involved, helping to mitigate symptoms of depression, agitation and aggression.
What happens after being diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease?
Being diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can be heart-wrenching, numbing and frightening for both the patient and their family. However, there are resources that can help everyone manage what is to come.
First, you will want to work closely with your primary care physician and neurologist to develop a plan of care. This will depend on where you or your loved one are in the progression of the disease. They may prescribe medications that help with attention, memory or behavior. After the initial diagnosis, assessments will continue that will give your physicians a progressive picture of your condition. Remember that dementia is usually a progressive condition. As the dementia patient’s condition worsens, more care will be needed to help manage activities of daily living and medical conditions.
Read our guide to caring for elderly and aging parents
Then, you may want to talk with a counselor at a memory care center. They can help you and your loved ones develop a plan for when more care is needed. They can help you all to have discussions around decision making such as a power-of-attorney and who will have what responsibilities as the disease progresses.
Next, begin to make preparations for when you or your loved one will need more care. As with any medical condition, you will have to be aware of what is needed during each stage of the disease and be prepared to advocate for yourselves.
Lastly, take time out to enjoy the memories you and your loved ones have built up over the years. Begin to create memory boxes or scrapbooks that will help build connections as the disease becomes more progressive.