Concerned about Memory Problems in a family member? Tips to make a visit the doctor easier.
By Annie Marrs, LCSW, Family Services Director, Alzheimer’s Association
Whether you are a current caregiver or you are concerned that someone you love is showing possible signs of memory or cognitive impairment – initiating a doctor’s visit can be difficult. If someone you care about is reluctant to visit a doctor there are some tips that can make the conversation, planning, and trip more enjoyable.
If someone has not yet been diagnosed with dementia it is understandable there can be fears as to what the physician may feel is the underlying cause. Try to reassure the person that there are some treatable conditions that cause similar symptoms as well. You can validate his or her fears, while also stating your concern, such as ‘I know you are healthy, and you feel you don’t need to see a doctor, but I am concerned about some of the things I see and would feel better getting the doctor’s opinion about what’s going on.”
You may also be able to call the doctor’s office and ask them to call the individual and schedule an appointment – you could encourage the physician to call because it has generally been a while since their last visit, they could also encourage an annual wellness visit (covered by Medicare), or maybe daily medications need to be renewed. For many individuals going to the doctor for a physical reason (such as a pain in their hip, hands hurting, or sight changes) is a more comfortable concern than a cognition or memory change.
Once you schedule an appointment, make sure it occurs during the best time of the day when the individual has the most energy and is most agreeable. You may want to pair the appointment with another stop at a place that the person enjoys (a coffee shop or fun store).
Doctors have limited amounts of time to see their patients and it is a good idea to make the most of your visit. Write a list of concerns that you may want to bring with you or drop off to the physician ahead of time. This can also be helpful if there are changes that you are worried about that can be difficult to share in front of your family member, or if you are not invited to the visit. The Alzheimer’s Association has resource sheets that you can print and use; go to www.alz.org/knowthetensigns and fill out the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Worksheet and Doctor’s Appointment Checklist or call the association 24-hours a day at 1-800-272-3900.