Doctors play a vital role in the fight against Alzheimer's disease, but they need help. Close cooperation between doctors, family members, and patients is a vital part of treatment. Doctors need to understand a patient's situation and symptoms in order to make an accurate diagnosis and prescribe the right medication. Meanwhile, patients and family members need to know about the course of the disease and possible risks and benefits of treatment.
Patients in the early stages of Alzheimer's may be able to understand their condition and their treatment, but they should still bring a family member to the doctor's office for extra support. As the disease progresses, help from family members becomes crucial.
Whether it's your first trip to the Alzheimer's doctor or your 20th, come prepared. Bring a list of all of the medications the patient is taking, including herbal and over-the-counter remedies. You should also bring a list of the patient's current medical problems, as well as a detailed description of recent mental symptoms. This extra work will pay off: According to Alzheimer's Disease International, people who prepare for doctor's appointments and ask questions get better care.
Here's a list of important questions to ask the doctor:
Questions to ask before the diagnosis
- Could the medicines I'm taking be causing my symptoms?
- Do I have any other conditions that could be causing my symptoms or making them worse?
Questions to ask after the diagnosis
- How confident are you about the diagnosis?
- How advanced is the disease?
- What changes can I expect next?
- How can my family and I prepare for these changes?
Questions about treatment
- Which drug do you think is best for me? Why?
- What side effects should I watch out for?
- What are the signs of a dangerous reaction or side effect?
- What improvements can we expect to see, and how long will it take?
- How long will I be taking the drug?
- Should I be taking vitamin E or other supplements? If so, what dose do you recommend?
- Should I or a loved one consider joining a clinical trial for Alzheimer's drugs?
Administration on Aging. Alzheimer's disease info: Questions to ask your doctor. September 15, 2003.
Alzheimer's Disease International. Ask doctors more questions encourages Alzheimer's Disease International on world Alzheimer's day. September 18, 2003.
Alzheimer's Association. Visiting a physician. 2004.
Alzheimer's Association. Talking with your physician about treatment options. 2004.
National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health. Press release: Diet rich in foods with vitamin E may reduce Alzheimer's disease risk. June 25, 2002.