Don’t Forget to Ask Your Doctor about Dementia

Bigstock-Doctor-with-female-patient-21258332"Do you worry that forgetting names, or where you put your keys, might be a sign of impending dementia?"

Researchers who reviewed federal government data on more than 10,000 people found that in 2011, only 1 in 4 adults aged 45 or older talked about memory problems with their doctor during a routine checkup. Furthermore, the chance that a person would admit to a memory problem in a doctor's office visit declined with advancing age. This was reported in a US News & World Report article, "Too Few Older Adults Tell Doctors About Memory Loss: Study," discussing findings published in the journal Preventing Chronic Disease.

Routine checkups can be a missed opportunity for assessing and discussing memory problems for the majority of older adults. Experts say the stigma of memory loss and dementia may keep some from discussing these issues with their doctors.

Many think that as long as we don't mention it, memory loss might just be normal aging. However, talking about memory troubles doesn't necessarily mean you have dementia. It might be another highly treatable condition, like depression. But if it is related to dementia, recognizing it early is crucial.

Patients can meet with family members and an experienced elder law attorney to get advice on making individualized decisions for their care, rather than relying on last-minute decisions.

Memory loss and the possibility of the early onset of dementia is a difficult discussion for both the physician and patient, particularly in light of the long-term implications. However, early diagnosis of dementia is important, as even mild memory loss from early Alzheimer's disease may be improved with medication (although these prescriptions don't stop the disease's progression).

It can be hard for people to assess whether their own subtle memory loss is "normal," but a discussion with their physician in conjunction with specialized testing may result in answers that could lead to treatment and a better overall quality of life.

Reference: US News & World Report (January 28, 2016) "Too Few Older Adults Tell Doctors about Memory Loss: Study"

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