Your Doctor’s Role

Regular monitoring by a doctor is crucial for managing dementia, says Dr. Barry Clarke, a family doctor who specializes in geriatrics in Halifax, N.S. “If I’ve prescribed drugs, I would want to see my patients in about two weeks to check on side effects or behaviour changes that result,” he says.

“Otherwise, I’d generally see a patient every three to six months to reassess their cognitive ability and how they’re functioning – earlier if another issue arises.”

Your doctor will also likely track your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and diabetes (if you have it), as these can have an impact on dementia as well, points out Dr. Clarke. And if you’re still working and you need to apply for CPP/QPP disability benefits or for the federal disability tax credit, your doctor will have to sign the forms.

Depending on your province, you may need a doctor’s letter to get help or care in the home.

The ASC suggests making doctor’s appointments for times when you’re likely to be well rested and at ease, and bringing along a family member or friend for emotional support.

For other tips on doctor's visits, click here.

It’s also a good idea for caregivers to track their relative’s or friend’s medications so medical staff have an up-to-date list. “You may assume that medical professionals keep each other informed,” says Schulz. “That’s not always the case.”

Since caregivers may not be able to be with their parent or friend every moment of the day, it's wise for them to fill out an emergency contact sheet with info about the person's health conditions and medication use. They should keep several copies tacked to the fridge, or tucked into a purse or wallet in case of an emergency.

You may assume that medical professionals keep each other informed. That’s not always the case.

Act as an Advocate

When Debby Blyth’s mother, Belle, developed dementia in her 80s, Debby always accompanied her to doctor’s appointments. “The doctor would ask how she was doing and my mom would say, ‘Oh fine. I’m just fine,’” recalls Blyth, of Toronto. “I would sit behind her shaking my head and mouthing ‘no.’”

Blyth kept track of her mom’s ailments, so she wouldn’t forget to ask the appropriate questions within the time slot allowed. And she kept track of the doctor’s advice and directions for taking medication as well. If there was a nagging health problem, or she simply wanted a second opinion on some aspect of her mother’s care, she didn’t hesitate to ask for a referral to a specialist.

That kind of help can’t be underestimated, says Schulz. For more tips on how to be an effective advocate for someone with AD, check out the Alzheimer Society’s post on ‘Working with the doctor’.

At all times, whether you are the one being tested, or the caregiver who is acting as patient advocate, speak up: push for answers; push for more time. If you can’t get in to see any doctors or specialists for a while, always say: “Let me know if a cancellation comes up. I’d be happy to come in sooner.”

Next: Watch Out For Concurrent Conditions


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Camilla Cornell

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