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When you have Alzheimer’s disease or another type of dementia, it’s important to work closely with your primary care provider to manage the disorder and prevent complications from developing. Good communication, a clear treatment plan, and regular visits to your primary care provider can go a long way toward helping you take good care of yourself and improve your quality of life. To that end, it’s a good idea to have at least one family member come to appointments with you to help ask the right questions of your doctor and remember his or her answers later. Here’s a step-by-step guide to talking to your doctor effectively about Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia:
Find out what kind of prognosis you can expect, given your current condition, and what you can realistically do to slow the onset of dementia’s symptoms. What kinds of physical and emotional challenges should you expect in the next five or ten years? How should you deal with them? What kinds of lifestyle modifications, medications, and less traditional interventions (such as bright light therapy, pet therapy, art or music therapy, or massage) might help?
Ask your primary care provider if there are medications that can treat your personal symptoms and whether the benefits are likely to outweigh the drawbacks. Some drugs used to treat certain aspects of Alzheimer’s (such as hallucinations or aggressive behavior) can actually worsen other symptoms (such as confusion). Plus, a medication’s effectiveness can vary widely from one person to another. If you are given medication, ask if there any possible interactions or side effects you should be aware of with other drugs (such as anti-hypertensive drugs or antidepressants) or supplements that you may be taking for another chronic condition. Are there any over-the-counter or prescription drugs you should avoid because they could worsen your symptoms?
Find out how you should modify your diet, how often you should exercise, and what kinds of stress-management techniques you should practice (stress can worsen many symptoms of dementia). Also, what kinds of physical activity can help you stay as mobile as possible? Are there any nutrients or supplements that can help improve your brain function? If so, what’s the best way to take them?
Ask your primary care provider how often you should be seen for routine visits and what tests you should expect at these appointments. What kinds of assessments will the doctor do to see if a medication is helping? Also, find out how often you should see a specialist for specific check-ups, such as ear, eye, and dental exams, which often get overlooked in people with dementia.
To make sure you’re not overlooking anything important, it helps to ask your primary care provider a few catch-all questions, such as: What else do I need to know? What stumbling blocks should I watch out for in my care? What kinds of symptoms or changes should always be reported to you?
For more information on how VNSNY can help you manage Alzheimer's disease, please call us at 1-800-675-0391, or click here.