An Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis can be frightening and is frequently overwhelming. If you or a loved one recently received a diagnosis, here are 5 questions you should ask your doctor to help you understand more about your diagnosis.
1. How did you arrive at this diagnosis?
According to National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s disease can only be confirmed after someone dies, so one of the first things a person should be aware of is how the diagnosis was made. Blood and urine samples for example, can tell the doctor if other problems may be causing symptoms. Cognitive tests and brain scans can also reveal crucial information about the diagnosis and what to expect.
Asking what tests were done can reveal to you what stage of the disease your loved one is in, if other diseases have been ruled out, and much more.
2. How much experience does your medical team have in treating Alzheimer’s?
It may be unlikely that your loved one’s primary care doctor specializes in Alzheimer’s, as only about 6 million people in the USA have the disease. You will want a doctor who has had at least some experience with the disease however, so that they can help you navigate symptoms and find the best treatments.
3. What symptoms should I expect as the disease progresses?
The unknown can often be far scarier than reality. Informing yourself on disease progression can help you make plans for your loved one. If you know that your loved one may not be able to drive a car or remember appointments for example, hiring a caregiver to help with these things may give you peace of mind.
If the disease is in the earlier stages, it’s best to sit with your loved one and talk about specific caregiving services, and know their desires early, so they can make certain decisions while they have the cognitive ability to do so. By knowing your family member’s wishes before their disease progresses, you can help support them by fulfilling their wishes when they can no longer make those decisions themself.
4. Will current medications interact with new ones for Alzheimer’s?
Your loved one’s doctor may recommend a number of medications to help treat Alzheimer’s symptoms. It’s important to double check that none of the new medications will interact with current ones. Take the time to go over current medications with your loved one’s doctor, and ensure that new ones can be taken with current ones, and what side affects you may expect.
5. Is there any new treatment options available that you’re aware of?
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, progress is steadily being made on Alzheimer’s research all the time. There may be trials for new treatments available, a new medication released, or any other treatment options that aren’t readily available.
Just recently, the FDA approved its first new drug for Alzheimer’s in over a decade, and more treatments are being studied. It’s always worth asking about potential treatments that could slow the progression of the disease, or help in other ways.
Right now there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, but it can be managed and progression slowed through a great medical team. With the right medical and caregiving team, you can still enjoy many good years.