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

An older patient shaking hands with his doctorExperts estimate a skilled physician can diagnose Alzheimer's disease with more than 90% accuracy. The first step in following up on symptoms is finding a doctor you feel comfortable with. Many people contact their primary care physician about their memory or thinking concerns, 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. When talking to your primary care physician about memory and thinking problems, ask how familiar he or she is with diagnosing dementia and whether there are circumstances in which he or she would refer to a specialist. 

The specialists listed below can evaluate memory and thinking issues and diagnose dementia. Some people with unclear symptoms, including those under age 65, may require evaluation by two or more specialists who combine their findings to reach a diagnosis.

  • Neurologist, who specializes in diseases of the brain and nervous system.
  • Psychiatrist, who are trained in general psychiatry with additional training
    in mental health and aging.
  • Psychologist, who has special training in testing to assess thinking abilities,
    including memory, attention, language, reading and problem-solving skills.
  • Geriatrician, who specializes in the care of older adults and dementia.

Additional help

Your local Alzheimer's Association can provide a list of Alzheimer's and other dementia specialists in your area.

Alzheimer's Disease Centers (ADCs), funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), offer diagnosis and treatment services and are located across the country.

Learn more: Choosing a Doctor to Evaluate Memory and Thinking Problems (PDF), Communicating with Your Health Care Team (PDF) and Stages of Alzheimer's (PDF).

What to bring to a visit for memory loss

  • A list of any changes in your health, including your mood, memory and behaviors. Make a note of any changes you’ve noticed since your last appointment. 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.
  • A list of current prescriptions and over-the-counter medications.
  • A list of vitamins or supplements you’ve added to your medication regimen.
  • A list of questions you want to ask.
  • 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.

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Questions to ask about testing for memory loss

It’s normal to have questions and common to forget what you’d like to ask a doctor. Consider bringing a list of questions to your appointment so you’re prepared to discuss your concerns. Let the doctor or other medical professionals know if you need additional information or clarification.

  • What tests will be performed?
  • What does each test involve?
  • How long will the tests take?
  • How long will it take to learn results?

ALZNavigator can help you map out a plan to approach Alzheimer's

Whether you’re living with memory loss, or you care for someone who is, answer a few questions about your situation and ALZNavigator™, an interactive online tool, will guide you to your next steps.

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