Doctor Visits

Strategy: Listen and Ask Questions

Making the most out of a visit to the doctor involves effective two-way communication. You can contribute a great deal to the conversation—and outcome—by coming prepared, asking questions and listening to the treatment plan.

  • Take note of changes in your loved one’s symptoms, which fall into three groups: cognition, behavior and activities of daily living. Cognition includes memory, thinking skills and confusion. Behavioral symptoms include personality changes, disinterest in activities, wandering and hallucinations/delusions. Activities of daily living refer to dressing, bathing, eating and using the bathroom, as well as performing tasks such as using the phone.
  • Bring a list of questions. Depending on your loved one’s conditions, these might include: What is the diagnosis? What other tests should be taken? Should we see a neurologist, geriatrician or other specialist? What are all the available treatment options, possible side effects and effectiveness in terms of memory, behavior and other symptoms? What changes in condition should we report to you? Are there clinical trials available?
  • Bring to the visit a notebook that describes any changes and other health complaints, and all prescription and over-the-counter medications—and discuss these with the clinician.
  • Discuss any concerns about the prescribed treatment plan, including concerns about carrying out any of the instructions.
  • Ask about a reassessment of treatment if you have concerns, if new symptoms appear or as a matter of routine as the disease progresses. This discussion might include all available medications, including dispensing options, dosages or combination therapies, and medication management.
  • Ask for recommendations regarding lifestyle changes, such as exercise and diet, and community-based support services for your loved one and yourself.
  • Inquire whether the clinician will be communicating with other healthcare professionals treating the individual.
  • Find out how often the doctor would like to see your loved one.

FAQ (to AFA’s social services team)

FAQ: Resistance in Going to the Doctor

Q. My mother says she no longer wants to stay in the assisted living facility where she has been living for approximately one year. How do I deal with her desire to move?

A. Several of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are at work here. Since one of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease is impaired judgment, your wife may not understand how important it is for her see the doctor. In addition, it is difficult to rationalize with individuals with dementia, so logical arguments are unlikely to be successful.  Rather, it can be more helpful to be creative, calm and reassuring, even when it is not easy. 

One possible intervention is to pair a doctor’s visit with an enjoyable activity, such as lunch or a movie. Taking her out first can put her in a more positive frame of mind, which could aid in her willingness to see the doctor on the way back. Associating visiting the doctor with a more pleasant event can be helpful in making your wife feel safe.  Building trust is imperative for her to feel supported and encouraged during a difficult time.