Find the Right Doctor

When it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, choosing an Alzheimer’s doctor is crucial to receiving the proper care and treatment. But who do you see? The medical field has split itself into so many specialties that finding the right professional can be a daunting task.

Your primary care physician is often the best place to start; if more focused testing or treatment is needed, you may be referred to a specialist. However, primary care physicians don’t always refer patients to specialists, even when it could help clarify a diagnosis or supplement primary treatment. In these cases, it’s up to you to sort through the maze of medical professionals.

If you feel that you want more specialized care, use the following guide to help you determine what kind of expert will best meet your needs. Of course, always check to make sure professionals are licensed or certified to practice their specializations.

For a first appointment, you can start with your loved one’s primary care provider. Or you might go right to a specialist, like a psychiatrist or a neurologist. Over time, you may have a number of experts involved in your loved one’s care.

Unfortunately, there’s no definitive test for Alzheimer’s disease. So doctors can use a number of different techniques to come up with a diagnosis. In addition to a typical physical exam and blood and urine tests, these could include:

Mental status tests. The doctor may ask a series of questions that assess a person’s mental function. They test a person’s short-term memory, ability to follow instructions, and problem-solving skills. Specific tests include the mini-mental state exam (MMSE) and the “mini-cog.”

Neurological exams. In checking for signs of Alzheimer’s, doctor will also check your loved one’s neurological function, including speech, balance, coordination, and reflexes.

Imaging tests. CT scans, MRIs, and PET scans might be helpful in making a diagnosis. For example, they may rule out other causes for the symptoms — like tumors or strokes.

If you’re not satisfied with the doctor’s assessment, get a second opinion. Alzheimer’s disease can go on a long time, and during those years you’ll need to work closely with a doctor. It’s key that you find a caring, sympathetic healthcare professional you trust.

For your loved one’s sake — and for your own — don’t ignore the possible warnings signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Don’t wait until there’s a crisis before you see a doctor. If you have any concerns about your loved one’s memory or behavior, schedule an evaluation now.

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