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Caring for Agitation in Alzheimer's Disease

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Feeling Heard at the Doctor’s Office: 5 Tips for Alzheimer’s Care Partners

Medically Reviewed By Shilpa Amin, M.D., CAQ, FAAFP

Care partners who accompany a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease to a doctor may find it helpful to prepare in advance.

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When you provide care for someone with Alzheimer’s disease, a lot of responsibility is placed on your shoulders. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, one that can begin with what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calls “mild memory loss.”

But it’s a progressive disease, and caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s are required to do progressively more for their loved one as time goes by. This includes being the best possible advocate for your loved one, including at all their medical appointments.

Here are some strategies to help you do the best job and ensure you get all you can out of your visit with the doctor.

1. Find the right physician

Your loved one may already have a primary care physician, an internist, or a geriatrician, and starting there is fine. You may eventually want also to find a neurologist who specializes in diagnosing and managing disorders of the brain.

Because you will be the primary caregiver, you’ll be going to all those doctor’s appointments, so you’ll want to find someone you’re comfortable with, too.

Ultimately, look for caring and compassionate doctors with the right expertise in treating patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Not sure how to find someone? Check with your local Alzheimer’s Association for recommendations, or search by specialty on Healthgrades.com.

2. Track symptoms

You may find keeping a written record of your loved one’s symptoms helpful. Write down your observations, including changes in mood or behavior. Be as specific as possible. For example, if you notice they behave in a certain way at a particular time of day, include that in your notes.

If they’re agitated or experiencing hallucinations, write down their behavior in detail. With a list of symptoms, you can advocate for your loved one’s specific needs when you meet with the doctor.

3. Prepare before visits to doctor

You may have a lot to juggle when you arrive at the doctor’s office with your loved one, so you’ll want to make the process go smoothly. Also, you’ll want to ensure the doctor has all the information they need and a clear picture of the situation.

Before you arrive at the doctor’s office, make a list of your questions. Bring along your notes about symptoms and behavioral or mood changes.

Also, make a detailed list of all the medications, including over-the-counter (OTC) meds, supplements, and vitamins your loved one takes. Or you can bring along the medication containers to the appointment in case the doctor has questions about what your loved one may be taking.

4. Schedule appointments for the morning

If you can, schedule doctor’s appointments for your loved one in the morning.

People with dementia sometimes become agitated or restless in the late afternoon or early evening, a condition called sundowning, according to the National Institute on Aging (NIA) Trusted Source National Institute on Aging Governmental authority Go to source . You may find the appointment goes smoother — and you can voice your concerns with fewer distractions — during a morning visit.

5. Be strategic during your appointment

The appointment with the doctor is your chance to address concerns regarding the care of your loved one. Here are some tips to make most of your time with the doctor:

  • Don’t be shy about asking questions.
  • Answer the doctor’s questions as thoroughly as you can.
  • Share your opinion and express your concerns.
  • Write everything down.
  • Make sure you understand any treatment plan or medication changes.

At some point, you might also discuss your needs with the doctor. Caregiving for a family member with Alzheimer’s is meaningful, but it’s also stressful. Let the doctor know if you need help finding someone to provide respite care for you.

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Medical Reviewer: Shilpa Amin, M.D., CAQ, FAAFP
Last Review Date: 2023 Nov 16
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