Conversations with Dementia: What to Say to the Doctor

One of the most important conversations you are going to have when coming to terms with the possibility that a loved one has dementia is the conversation with their doctor. This can be an extremely intimidating space. Doctor’s offices can be scary and can feel final. But it’s important to be prepared and give the doctor the information they need to help your loved one. In this blog, we will discuss some of the things you should be ready to discuss.

For this blog, we spoke with Dr. Douglas Scharre, a Neuropsychiatrist and Behavioral Neurologist at the Center for Cognitive and Memory Disorders and Center for Neuromodulation at the Wexner Medical Center. Dr. Scharre is a renowned expert in dementia and other neurological disorders.

It’s a good idea to go with your loved one if you have worries about dementia. “This can help the doctor understand the seriousness of the situation,” Dr. Scharre noted. He also noted that if you cannot get your loved one to agree to you going with them, you can still talk to the doctor on your own. “It’s ok to call the doctor. HIPAA laws won’t let the doctor tell you about your loved one, but you are still allowed to tell the doctor.”

Dr. Scharre

Dr. Scharre gave us a list of things to keep an eye out for and think about that will be helpful information for the doctor to know:

  1. Is the problem with short term or long-term memory?
  2. Have they been repeating the same question as if they have never asked it before? This is an important distinction from someone who is asking a question because they have forgotten the answer in terms of diagnostics.
  3. Are they misplacing items more often?
  4. Are they having difficulty finding words? You might notice times where they stop in the middle of a sentence and struggle to use the word they want. This isn’t just when they can’t find the name of a person, but also names of objects.
  5. Have they been struggling with a sense of direction?

Knowing the answer to these questions can help the doctor get a clearer picture for diagnosis. A productive conversation with your loved one’s doctor is a great step towards learning what is best for care.

And as Dr. Scharre told us, “The earlier you treat, the better.”

Another tool you can use to measure your loved one’s cognitive health was invented by Dr. Scharre, the SAGE Test. It can be taken at home, no training required, and is free of charge. Not to mention, it is a good way to start the conversation. You can bring this completed test to your loved one’s doctor as a baseline. You can have your loved one take the test every six months or if a major shift is noticed in behavior. You can download the test here.

The conversation you will have with your loved one’s doctor can be an overwhelming experience. We hope this guide can give you more confidence that you know the basics of what your doctor might ask and have a productive conversation that can lead to your loved one getting the care they need.