Doctors and Dementia


First, let me make one thing very clear.  I am not a doctor, do not play one on TV, never wanted to be a doctor and probably would not be a very good one.  Phew!  Now I feel better, getting that off my chest.

You know there is a “but” coming, right?

The “but” is that providing home care to many elders exposes us to many doctors.  For those of our clients going through normal aging or suffering from chronic conditions such as Congestive Heart Failure, COPD, Diabetes, Osteoporosis and others, most of our clients’ doctors really do a fine job.  The doctor has the confidence or her / his patient (our client) and of the family.  That is good.

Then we introduce a new factor into the equation – dementia, in one of its many forms; perhaps Alzheimer’s.  Unfortunately, the grade for many seniors’ doctors drops a bit.  There are many terrific doctors with excellent knowledge of geriatric medicine, but it is far from universal.

So why this soapbox, today?

Yesterday I got a call from the family member of a woman who, according to the caller, needs home care.  We discussed what the family member, also a woman, was seeing.  Among other things, the caller described:

  • memory loss
  • aversion to bathing
  • irregular, infrequent eating habits
  • incontinence, addressed by adult undergarments, which were not being worn the last time the caller visited

My first question was whether the elder had been diagnosed with any form of dementia.  The caller’s response was that her relative’s doctor had just shrugged his shoulders concerning the senior’s condition and indicated that, “Well, you are getting older.”

That is a very poor response, in my view.  The symptoms above are NOT associated with normal aging.  They are symptoms of one or more conditions that need to be explored, medically, probably by a neurologist; certainly by someone with experience in geriatric medicine.

So, we scheduled an assessment for Support For Home to meet with the elder and her family, to determine what home care services she needs.

Well, the next day, the woman who called me gives me another call.  Her first words were, “Can we reschedule the assessment, because I just got an appointment for my relative with a neurologist?  You folks were absolutely wonderful to recommend that.”

Done and done.  Hopefully, this elder is on the way to meaningful diagnosis and treatment – as well as excellent home care.  🙂

So, if you or your senior loved ones have great doctors who understand both healthy aging and the issues of geriatric medicine, including dementia, tell them thank you for being great.  If you do not, then find the great ones.  They are out there, just not enough of them, yet.

Best wishes, Bert

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