What Type of Physician is the Best for Helping Determine Cognitive Decline or Dementia?

What Type of Physician is the Best for Helping Determine Cognitive Decline or Dementia?

Have you ever worried that you or a loved one may be losing cognitive abilities with age? If so, you are not alone many adults over 65 have the type of cognitive decline or loss we regard as a “normal” consequence of age.

Normal Signs of Aging

According to the website, HelpGuide.org, the following types of memory lapses are normal among older adults and generally are not considered warning signs of dementia:

  • Becoming easily distracted or having trouble remembering what was just read, or the details of a conversation.
  • Forgetting names of acquaintances or blocking one memory with a similar one, such as calling a grandson by his father’s name.
  • Not quite being able to retrieve information that is “on tip of your tongue.”
  • Occasionally forgetting an appointment or walking into a room and forgetting why you went there.
  • Occasionally forgetting where things were placed that are used regularly, like eyeglasses or keys.

For many people, slight lapses in memory from time to time are a natural and normal part of the aging process; however you or a loved one are struggling with ability to perform everyday activities, or any behavior, memory or thinking skills, then there may be a bigger issue at hand.

READ MORE

Symptoms of Cognitive Decline and Dementia

Cognitive decline and dementia are two common conditions that are not considered normal aspects of aging. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 50 million people worldwide have some form of dementia with nearly ten million cases added every year.

Cognitive decline and dementia differ from age-related memory loss in that they are degenerative diseases that will gradually worsen over time. For many people, symptoms of cognitive decline start out subtly and may only be noticeable to the person experiencing them.

Early-stage symptoms of dementia typically include:

  • Becoming lost in familiar places
  • Forgetfulness
  • Losing track of the time

When the disease progresses, the middle stage symptoms of dementia become “clearer and more restricting,” including:

  • Becoming forgetful of recent events and people’s names
  • Becoming lost at home
  • Experiencing behavioral changes, including wandering and repeated questioning
  • Having increasing difficulty with communication
  • Needing help with personal care

Symptoms eventually lead to “near total dependence and inactivity” during the late stage of dementia, including:

  • Becoming unaware of the time and place
  • Experiencing behavior changes that may include aggression
  • Having an increasing need for assisted self-care
  • Having difficulty recognizing relatives and friends
  • Having difficulty walking

Ways to Choose the Right Healthcare Professional

Choosing the right healthcare professional is critical if you’re concerned that you or a loved one may be experiencing dementia or another cognitive disease.

Make an appointment with one of the appropriate healthcare providers below to address your concerns:

  • Family Doctor or Primary Care Physician

According to an article published by U.S. News, making an appointment with your primary care physician (PCP) is the best first step to receiving comprehensive care. Primary care physicians should be able to get a complete medical history, family history, social history, current medication list and a review of any loss of abilities to perform day-to-day activities.

During an initial visit, your physician will most likely perform a full physical exam as well administer a cognitive assessment to gain a better understanding of your symptoms and rule out other possible conditions. Your physician may also order lab tests, including blood work, a CT scan or an MRI, as well as make a referral to a dementia-specific specialist for further testing.

  • Geriatrician or Geriatric Psychiatrist

According to the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, your best choice for a dementia-specific specialist is a geriatrician with a special interest in dementia, or a geriatric psychiatrist.

A geriatrician is a “primary care internist or family practitioner who specializes in complex conditions of older people and can provide care for all of an older adult’s medical needs whereas a geriatric psychiatrist specializes in the emotional and mental needs of older individuals. They conduct thorough memory, mood, sleep, and thinking evaluations. They are particularly good at assessing memory problems associated with life stress, anxiety, depression, excess drinking, or family conflicts.

If you are unable to obtain a referral to either one of these specialists (or your insurance will not cover the cost of these visits), your primary care doctor may refer you to a neurologist.

  • Neurologist

A neurologist has specialized training in diagnosing, treating, and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system. Some neurologists are specifically trained in diagnosing cognitive decline and dementia and so it is important for you and your family to ask your primary physician and conduct research for the appropriate neurologist to ensure you are being referred to the most appropriate specialist. During your initial consultation, the neurologist will perform more comprehensive tests to determine your mental fitness.

  • Psychiatrist, Psychologist, and Social Worker

Many people struggle following a diagnosis of cognitive decline or dementia. A psychologist or social worker can provide counseling and support and also help to address behavioral issues. They can also offer support to the family unit in order to best support the newly diagnosed individual. As mentioned above, the University of North Carolina School of Medicine suggests visiting a geriatric psychiatrist because they focus solely on the emotional and mental needs of older individuals.

If you suspect that you or a loved one is experiencing cognitive decline or dementia then starting with your primary care physician is the best first step. You shouldn’t however feel restricted by their opinion. If you are not happy with the results of primary care physician’s assessment, or, if that doctor does not seem to feel an evaluation for diagnoses and treatment of the cognitive problem is that important, then it’s time to get a second opinion.

Moving to Assisted Living Care

A decision to move to assisted living care raises many questions. You or your loved one may ask, “Is help really needed?”; “Will it be easy to make friends?”; or “Can loved ones and friends still stay close to one another?” The answer to these common questions is the same: “Yes!”

Whether you are a new resident or a loved one seeking more information, there are many ways to help make the transition successful.

Change can be challenging for anyone. It may take a few days to feel settled in, or a bit longer. The transition experience is different for everyone. You or your loved one will get there. The keys to success are preparation, a positive attitude, patience and understanding, and strong support network.

Everyone copes with change differently. Patience, support, and understanding are key themes that will help residents, loved ones, and friends adjust. Rest assured that the assisted living staff is experienced, ready, and willing to help with the process. Don’t be shy about asking questions or seeking assistance. It should be every assisted living care residence’s goal to help make your move a positive experience.

READ MORE

Privacy Concerns

One of the biggest changes in moving to assisted living care is sharing space with people you don’t know. While this may seem uncomfortable, you’ll soon find that neighbors won’t affect your privacy. You’ll always have your own space. Loved ones and family members can visit, but you decide when. If you have questions or concerns about privacy or security, talk with facility staff.

 

Moving To Your New Home

Begin planning your move soon after choosing an assisted living care facility. Decide what furniture, clothes, and personal items you’ll bring and what ones you’ll store off-site, donate, or sell. Start packing well in advance of moving day. If you have a hard time making decisions about what to bring and what to leave, you’re not alone. Many residents struggle with this process. Try to remain positive and have loved ones and friends help you. Small prized possessions will go far in making your new home feel like home. When moving day arrives, ask loved ones and friends to help arrange and organize your new home. Arranging items to suit your preferences will make the adjustment easier.

 

Making the Emotional Transition

Moving is hard. It can make anyone feel stressed or overwhelmed. These feelings are generally temporary and disappear after you get settled in and develop your own routine. Give yourself time to adjust. Ask other residents if they have suggestions for the transition. Many folks find comfort in talking with a neighbor, close friend, or spiritual advisor. At first, you may tend to keep to yourself. This is normal. Try to get out and introduce yourself to other residents. Staying busy and participating in activities can make you feel more comfortable about your surroundings. Everyone is different. Some people embrace the move with open arms; others find it’s not so easy. If you feel adjusting is taking longer than you expected, you might want to have a care conversation with the assisted living care director or administrator.

 

Advice for New Residents

  • Here are some tips to make your move easier:
  • Read all assisted living care residence materials before you move in.
  • Try to meet with sales and marketing director, facility director, and/or staff before moving day.
  • Review all paperwork carefully before your move, so you can address any questions.
  • Obtain a list from the residence of suggested items to bring.
  • Pack wisely. Don’t bring everything.
  • Read and familiarize yourself with residence policies.
  • If the residence is helping you with your laundry, label your clothing to avoid any mix-ups.
  • Read the activity schedule and choose two or three programs to attend early on to meet neighbors and other residents.

 

Tips for Loved Ones and Friends

As a loved one or friend transitions to an assisted living care community, try to be involved before, during, and after the move. Residents don’t want to be treated differently. While their address has changed, they haven’t. The experience may be just as difficult for you as it is for your loved one or friend. These emotions are natural and expected. Keep these dos and don’ts in mind:

 

Do…

  • Help with sorting, packing, and moving when asked
  • Listen as your loved one or friend talks about what was left behind
  • Stay positive even if you don’t agree with the move decision
  • Recognize that moving to a new home represents a major change
  • Call and visit often, especially during the first few weeks
  • Provide support, patience, and understanding

 

Don’t…

  • Make decisions for your loved one or friend
  • Take over sorting, packing, and moving without being asked
  • Focus on your needs and wishes. The move is about the resident!
  • Criticize the decision to move to assisted living care
  • Make light of the transition
  • Rush into talking about selling the resident’s house
  • Make promises that you cannot keep
  • Be negative