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Working with the Doctor
Good health care requires a partnership between the patient, family and physician. Plan ahead to get the most out of medical appointments, and be open and honest when discussing care.
See the doctor right away if the person with dementia:
- Is suddenly more confused
- Has a major change in memory or mood
- Faints or falls
- Is suddenly unable to speak or move part of the body
- Has a fever
- Is suddenly incontinent (having 'accidents' or wetting the bed)
Many people report forgetting to ask their doctor all of their questions. Whether you are the patient or the caregiver, avoid this problem by writing down questions and concerns beforehand. Bring the list to your appointment. If you get home and realize you still have questions, call the doctor to discuss them.
Make notes about changes in behaviors, routines or eating habits. Be as specific as you can. When does it happen? How often? Does something seem to trigger it?
People with Alzheimer's or dementia may be under the care of more than one doctor and may be taking medications for multiple health conditions. It is important that everyone on the health care team knows about all prescription and over-the-counter medications, including any vitamins or herbal supplements being taken. Bring medication containers or a complete list (including dosages) with you to each appointment.
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Your doctor is an important source of support and information. If you don't understand something, ask questions until you do. Don't be afraid to speak up and to share your opinion.
Talk about treatment goals.
Are medications working? Do dosages need to be changed or monitored? As dementia progresses, the goals of treatment will change. Make sure you understand all treatment options, as well as the risks and benefits of each.
Keep good records.
After each appointment, make sure to update your records with any test results or changes to medications or care plans. It's important to keep a personal health record so care can be coordinated between doctors and information is accessible in an emergency. There are many ways to organize and store personal health information, including online services that make it possible to access records from anywhere at any time.
Leave with a plan.
At the end of your appointment, ask the doctor to recap the most important points. Write them down. Note any changes to the treatment plan and any follow-up steps needed (such as scheduling the next appointment or having tests done).