Supporting your parent with dementia at the doctor’s office

If you are visiting a new doctor, provide them with the medical history in advance. 

As our parents age, and many of us raise children of our own, we work to navigate the transition from child-to-parent-to-care giver. The first changes we notice are subtle. Then we start to watch as they begin to make choices that conflict with the parents we have known for so long.

Most doctors will not recognize that the patient in front of them is having difficulty with their memory. We are smart and our brains fill in the voids with logical answers in the early stages of dementia. I started to notice that my mom would give the doctor answers that were reasonable responses, but false.

In the beginning, I would try to correct this information. It only raised my mother’s anxiety and distrust of me. She could not accept, nor understand, that what she was saying was untrue.

I stopped correcting the facts. If we were in a medical office, I would suggest the doctor review the files to confirm past history and I modified how I would raise missing items. When I addressed the missing items, I include my mom in the discussion. “Oh, I believe there was evidence of a prior stroke by Dr. Kahn. Did I get that right mom?”

For my dad who had a list of medications, of which he can’t recite and has no awareness of what they are for – I print out the list and give it to him before we walk in to the visit with the doctor. He can then pull out the list and give it to the doctor.

What a difference a few small changes will make for you … and your parents. Discovered.

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