Contributed by: Dennis Fortier, President, Medical Care Corporation
One of the keys to better Alzheimer's care is education. We need a more informed public that knows how and when to seek expert advice from a medical doctor. We also need the medical community to adopt a consistent approach to applying the latest standards of care for an aging public with many memory concerns, be they real concerns or false alarms.
While there is a lot of information posted online that can help educate the public, there is also lots of suspect information as well. One site that has a wealth of high quality information in this field is www.caring.com. You may have noticed one of their articles that was picked up by the general media; it described the types of information a family will want to collect and consider if they suspect the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.
- Creating a record - writing down observations about the nature and frequency of any behaviors that seem problematic.
- Educating yourself - learning about all the possible explanations for cognitive changes to avoid jumping to an overly dire conclusion.
- Identifying a qualified physician - this may be the patient's usual primary care physician but it may not be. Not all M.D.'s are equal.
- Getting a thorough diagnostic work-up - this will include more than a medical history and a physical exam as blood work, cognitive assessment, and brain imaging may all be required.
- Seeing a specialist - whether the primary care physician initiates this step or not, the family should pursue such a consultation.
- Seeking a second opinion - as the medical community endeavors to absorb new medical knowledge in this field, there is a wide range of expertise among primary care physicians. Getting a second opinion is a prudent step.