Talking with Your Doctor About Memory Loss
Many people who call our office or who attend one of our educational seminars ask questions about the best way to approach their physicians with concerns about memory loss. Sometimes their questions relate to whether changes they have noticed in themselves or a loved one are cause for concern at all. At other times, they express uncertainty about how to describe what they are experiencing in other than vague terms, such as, “My husband’s memory seems to be failing,” or “I seem to be having a lot of ‘senior moments’ recently.”
As our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease and other memory disorders has deepened, it has become increasingly apparent that intervention at the earliest stage possible is the key factor in ensuring that (1) an appropriate diagnosis is obtained; (2) the most effective treatment is implemented; and (3) that the person with memory problems – and those who love them and share their lives – are able to maintain an optimal quality of life for the longest possible period of time.
A retired internist who is a member of our Patient and Family Services Committee, offers the following suggestions:
"The most important thing is to get to the doctor early, when symptoms of memory loss first raise concern or begin to interfere with daily activities. When talking with your doctor, bring a list or checklist of symptoms and, if possible, have one person who will serve as spokesperson accompany the patient. Be concise and specific in your description of what has been observed and experienced. It can also be helpful to write a letter ahead of time to the physician to help him or her prepare for the appointment. Having a good medical history ready is also very important, such as when symptoms were first noticed, other physical conditions being treated or that are of concern, any medications being taken, and so on."
Families are often reluctant to approach their doctor with problems about memory...