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Alzheimer's Disease - Choosing a Doctor

If you have a primary care physician with whom you’ve established a good rapport, discuss your concerns regarding Alzheimer’s disease. Chances are she has other patients with the same illness, but if not, provide her with information you’ve found helpful. She may or may not remain the gatekeeper in your care, but she can help you find a physician who is familiar with Alzheimer’s disease and able to help you.

As with any chronic illness, navigating your way within the medical world will require you to be your own advocate. This means being proactive about your care, staying informed and being organized about your needs during each appointment. This is not an easy road, and balancing the medical, insurance and care aspects of your health is going to require clarity and work on your part.

Patient Advocate

A patient advocate is a great idea for many people with a chronic disease. This is especially the case when the disease is a dementia like Alzheimer’s disease. A patient advocate is someone who helps the patient make appointments, and keeps track of medications, doctor’s orders and other important information.

While a patient advocate is often a family member, there are professional patient advocates whose job it is to help patients navigate the medical world. Check with your family health care provider or your local phone directory to find one who can work for you.

How Do You Choose a Doctor?

While you can use your primary care physician for advice in treating Alzheimer’s disease, you might want to consider consulting a specialist. Research into the field of Alzheimer’s is constantly changing and it is often better to go with a physician who is both keeping up with the latest research and also seeing many patients with the disease.

Alzheimer’s patients and those who are attempting to assist or care for someone with Alzheimer’s should consider the following types of physicians. You may want to use more than one of these specialists:

  • Geriatricians are physicians who specialize in the care of older adults. While they cover a wide variety of conditions, a large part of their practice is usually people with Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Neurologists are physicians who focus on diseases that have to do with the brain. They employ special diagnostic tools and are usually up to date on the latest research. They are often helpful resources to turn to for a diagnosis, as many conditions present very similar to Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Psychiatrists are doctors who specialize in mental and emotional diseases. It might be a good idea to consult a psychiatrist because of the difficulty the patient might have when diagnosed. Depression is a common reaction to a diagnosis. Later in the disease, many people with Alzheimer’s disease experience severe psychiatric episodes that include hallucinations, delusions, agitation and changes in behavior, all of which can be supported by a psychiatrist. Additionally, caregivers often have a thankless job and experience many of the same mood disorders as the patient, such as helplessness and depression. Consulting a psychiatrist can be helpful.
  • Alzheimer’s specialists are certain physicians who specialize in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. Ask your primary care physician for help finding one, or check your local phone directory.

Choosing a Care Facility

While some patients with Alzheimer’s disease may be able to stay at home through their entire illness, for most patients, a move to a care facility is not only good, but a necessary step. With the changes in mental function, loss of ability to perform daily tasks, and dramatic personality and mood changes, caring for a person with Alzheimer’s is a extremely difficult challenge that may be best left to professionals with a large staff and experience to handle these changes.

Searching for a potential care facility can be difficult and time-consuming. You should ask your friends and family doctor, check your local phone directory, or use the Alzheimer’s Association’s Care Finder .

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