Too often, individuals with memory concerns are not discussing the issue with their doctor. According to the Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures report, only 4 in 10 would talk to their doctor right away.
Individuals hesitate because they believe their experiences are related to normal aging, rather than a potential diagnosable medical condition. Yet, 7 in 10 would want to know early if they have Alzheimer’s disease if it could allow for earlier treatment.
“While discussing cognitive concerns with your health care provider can be challenging, it’s really important,” said Jordana Lawrence, Alzheimer’s Association educator and care specialist. “Having these conversations with a doctor can help facilitate early detection and diagnosis, offering individuals and families important benefits: not only treatments, but emotional and social benefits, access to clinical trials and more time to plan the future. It is also important to note that some forms of cognitive decline are treatable.”
To discuss cognitive concerns with health professionals more confidently, the Alzheimer’s Association offers a few tips.
Find the right doctor. In most cases, the first point of contact for concerns about memory and thinking is with your primary care physician. Ask your physician how comfortable they are identifying and diagnosing cognitive problems. Most often, your physician will perform an initial assessment, and if cognitive decline is detected, order more advanced testing or refer you to a specialist for a more definitive diagnosis. If your doctor doesn’t take your concerns seriously, seek a second opinion.
Be prepared. Come to your visit with a list of any changes in your health, including your mood, memory and behaviors. Include a list of past and current medical problems, current prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, including vitamins or supplements. Most importantly, be sure to have your list of questions and be prepared to answer the doctor’s questions openly and honestly.
Get educated. When speaking to the doctor, be sure to ask what tests will be performed, what the tests involve, how long each test takes and when the results will be available.
“For the first time in nearly two decades, there are treatments for individuals with early stages of the disease that can slow down the progression and give them more time with their families and loved ones, so early detection and diagnosis is more important than ever,” said Lawrence.
For more information and free support services, visit the Alzheimer’s Association online at alz.org/cacentral. Their Ventura office is located at 2580 E Main Street #201, and their 24/7 Helpline is 800.272.3900 for around-the-clock support and information in English and Spanish.