Effective communication with your doctor is important when you are seeking a diagnosis for memory loss. Ask questions, be prepared to answer questions and be as honest as possible.
Finding your doctor
Experts estimate a skilled physician can diagnose Alzheimer's disease with more than 90 percent accuracy. The first step in following up on symptoms is finding a doctor you feel comfortable with. Many people contact their regular primary care physician or internist about their concerns regarding memory loss, and primary care doctors often oversee the diagnostic process themselves.
Your doctor will evaluate your overall health and identify any conditions that could affect how well your mind is working. Your doctor may refer you to a physician who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer's and other dementias such as a:
- Neurologist, who specializes in diseases of the brain and nervous system.
- Psychiatrist, who specializes in disorders that affect mood or the way the mind works.
- Psychologist, who has special training in testing memory and other mental functions.
- Geriatrician, who specializes in the care of older adults and Alzheimer's disease.
Learn more: Choosing a Doctor to Evaluate Memory and Thinking Problems
(PDF), Preparing for Your Doctor's Visit
(PDF) and Stages of Alzheimer's
What to bring to a visit for memory loss
- A list of symptoms, when they began, and how frequently they occur, documented in the form of a journal or the use of care logs. Be as specific as possible.
- A list of past and current medical problems: Tell your doctor if other family members had illnesses that caused memory problems.
- All medications, both over-the-counter (vitamins, aspirin) and prescription.
- Be prepared to answer the doctor's questions honestly and to the best of your ability.
What to expect
Take our interactive tour to learn what to expect when being evaluated for memory and thinking problems.
Take the Tour
Questions to ask about testing for memory loss
- What tests will be performed?
- What does each test involve?
- How long will the tests take?
- How long will it take to learn results?
Care logs and additional resources
- A care log (PDF) is a joint project between the caregiver and patient. Both can record information in the log. Keep it handy and use it to keep track of things that happen between doctor visits.
- Use the medication log (PDF) to help keep yourself organized and to keep the doctor(s) informed. It can help you remember the dosage, possible side effects and any special instructions.
- An appointment log (PDF) can help you before, during and after a doctor visit. Doctors also appreciate that you have planned for the appointment.
- The My Personal Health Record site is a guide to understanding and maintaining personal health information in your medical record. Health care professionals use this record to help provide you appropriate and quality health care.
- A U.S. government site, HIPAA and Health Information Privacy features informative fact sheets about the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and your health information privacy rights.
Alzheimer’s Navigator can help you map out a plan to approach Alzheimer's
When facing Alzheimer's disease or another dementia, there are a lot of things to consider. We can help you figure out your next steps. Go to Alzheimer’s Navigator®, our free, online tool, and complete a series of short surveys to receive a customized action plan designed just for you.