This week we are discussing Alzheimer’s and dementia. We have noted 10 warning signs revealing your loved one might have Alzheimer’s, a corresponding list of 10 signs that may indicate they are only showing symptoms of old age, and the importance of getting an early diagnosis so that proper care and attention can take place. Today we are going to look at choosing the best doctor for your loved one if they are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and what additional doctor’s you might also visit during this often long process.
The earlier the diagnosis, the earlier we can connect our loved one with the best care possible. The place to start, of course, is with their primary physician. After a thorough physical check-up and further testing to detect how their mind is working, and whether they have Alzheimer’s, dementia, or are experiencing the symptoms of old age, the primary physician will then refer your loved one to a specialist.
Growing number of specialists
There is a growing number of specialists in the medical field. Your primary care physician can refer your loved one to any number of doctors who can run further tests and evaluate where your loved one mentally and physically stands health-wise. That specialist will narrow down the focus in order to treat the patient specifically that will best suit their needs. Here are several possible specialists your loved one might see:
- Neurologist – specializes in diseases of the nervous system such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, Parkinson’s, and epilepsy. They hold a doctorate in medicine and have completed a residency in neurology, but that may not have had experience with the aging.
- Neuropsychologist – specializes in the relationship between the brain and behavior. They can test for the type and level of impairment due to Alzheimer’s disease. They hold a doctorate in psychology and intensive work in neuropsychology. They may not have specific experience with older adults.
- Geriatric Psychiatrist – specializes in the mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders affecting the elderly. They can prescribe medications.
- Geropsychologist – specialist in the mental health of the elderly. They may conduct psychological testing on your loved one and focus therapy on issues related to behavior management of dementia and Alzheimer’s symptoms, and work with patients and their caregivers on coping strategies and grief and loss.
- Geriatrician – a physician who specializes in the care of the elderly and the diseases that are common to that age group. They often serve as the primary physician to older patients.
There are other specialties that you and your loved one may cross paths with along the Alzheimer’s journey. Those mentioned above, as well as other subgroups, are becoming better equiped to handle the increasing number of men and women who are being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or any number of the types of dementia.
As you would in your search for a primary care physician, make sure that the specialist you are referred to has a special interest in your loved one. If you feel uncomfortable with the doctor or you do not believe they are truly operating in your loved one’s best interest, call your primary care physician or contact the local or state medical society for another referral. The ultimate goal is to choose the best doctor for you and for your loved one.