12 Things to Ask the Healthcare Provider After a Dementia Diagnosis

The diagnosis is in, and it's dementia. Maybe you knew this was coming. Or perhaps it completely surprised you. Either way, it may still be hard to hear this news.

Woman talking with the Doctor in her office
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While you may have some in-the-moment thoughts, it is not uncommon for people with newly-diagnosed dementia to only develop questions about the condition after they have gone home and started processing the information.

To help you along, here's a list of questions you may want to bring with you to your next healthcare provider's visit to ensure you get all the information you need:

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Strategies for Coping with a Dementia Diagnosis

"How Did You Arrive at This Diagnosis?"

Sometimes, it can be helpful to know what tests were conducted and how you or your loved one scored on those tests. This can give you information about decision-making ability and judgment, executive functioning, communication ability, and short- and long-term memory.

"Could My Symptoms Be Related A Different Condition?"

While this was likely considered by the healthcare provider before the diagnosis was made, it's still a good question to respectfully ask. There are times when these conditions masquerade as dementia or worsen dementia symptoms, so testing to eliminate these possibilities is important. Some common examples of causes of reversible dementia are depression, B12 deficiency, medications, and alcohol abuse.

"What Kind of Dementia Is This?"

Some people don't ask this question because they don't want to know. And, some clinicians use the word "dementia" because the word "Alzheimer's" scares people more. As hard as it may be to hear, it can be helpful to know what to expect and to learn as much as possible about the specific type of dementia the healthcare provider believes is causing these symptoms.

"What Stage Is Dementia?"

Some types of dementia have stages that are fairly predictable, such as Alzheimer's. Others, such as vascular dementia, can often remain fairly stable for a time and then suddenly progress.

"How Quickly Does This Dementia Typically Progress?"

Being prepared for how this disease may develop and affect you or your loved one can be helpful in making decisions ahead of time about care options, financial and legal designations, and medical treatment.

"What Else Should I Expect?"

Ask what other symptoms might develop so that you know what to watch for as things progress.

"What Medications Might Be Helpful?"

There are only a handful of medications approved by the FDA to treat Alzheimer's disease, and they are often prescribed to treat other types of dementia as well. Ask your healthcare provider if any might be appropriate and beneficial, as well as what side effects might develop with each particular medication.

"Are There Any Clinical Trials That Might Be Appropriate to Try?"

Some clinical trials might be available for your particular situation. You can also refer to the clinical trial match program on the Alzheimer's Association website. There are pros and cons to participating in clinical trials, and your healthcare provider may be able to help you evaluate these, given your specific situation, diagnosis, health, and philosophy of disease management.

"What Non-Drug Approaches Might Be Helpful?"

Non-drug approaches to dementia such as exercise, diet, and mental activity can be quite beneficial for some people.

"Is It Still Safe to Live at Home?"

Based on your reports, the practitioner's observations and the results of the cognitive screening tests, your healthcare provider may be able to make a recommendation regarding the safety of continuing to live at home.

"What About Work?"

Again, depending on the symptoms and expected prognosis, your healthcare provider may be able to help determine how long continuing to work will be possible.

"What Resources Can Help?"

Many communities have local Alzheimer's Association groups as well as other support groups and resources. Your healthcare provider may be able to suggest where to begin as you adjust and cope with this disease.

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  1. Galvin JE, Sadowsky CH; NINCDS-ADRDA. Practical guidelines for the recognition and diagnosis of dementia. J Am Board Fam Med. 2012 May-Jun;25(3):367-82. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2012.03.100181.

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