6 Questions Every Family Should Ask When a Loved One Is Diagnosed With Dementia

Sherry Christiansen
By Sherry ChristiansenFebruary 8, 2019

Dementia symptoms start slowly and progress over time. Often, when memory lapses occur, they are mistaken for signs of aging. But when a parent or senior loved one is assessed by a physician for dementia, there are some questions that family members can ask to better understand the disease.

Read our list of the top six questions families should ask when a senior loved one is diagnosed with dementia.

6 Questions to Ask When a Loved One Is Diagnosed With Dementia

1. Does my loved one understand that he or she has been diagnosed with dementia?

According to A Place for Mom’s Alzheimer’s expert, Megan Carnarius, in a recent article, 50% of people with dementia “don’t have any insight” and fail to understand the degree that their cognitive skills are impaired. She says, “A lot of people… mystify their loved ones by trying to force them to understand that they have memory loss instead of just moving on.”

2. How does dementia progress?

Once a parent or senior loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, people with the disease and their family members must learn what is in store for them. Dr. Susann Varano, a geriatrician in Westport, Connecticut, states in the same article that learning about “the typical course of this disease,” will help families get prepared on all levels, including emotionally, financially and physically.

Carnarius shares that family members will also need to get legal paperwork in order, assign a power of attorney for the future and make other important decisions.

3. Is the diagnosis that of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia?

Alzheimer’s disease is one of several causes of dementia. Dr. Varano explains that “If a physician says, ‘you have dementia,’ it’s the same thing as saying, ‘you have cancer.'” She says it’s critical to identify exactly which type of dementia it is. “Is it Lewy body dementia? Is it vascular?” etc. Some types of dementia progress faster than others, so it is vital to understand which type of dementia your senior loved one has, to be able to anticipate the course of the disease.

4. What do caregivers need to understand about dementia?

Asking what will be expected from you as a caregiver and becoming aware of caregiver and dementia resources are two important points to focus on in the early diagnostic phase of the disease. Remember to not stop focusing on caring for yourself as well as your parent or senior loved one.

5. What else could the diagnosis be?

According to Dr. Varano, many times a physician notes a senior patient with memory problems, then jumps too quickly to the assumption that it is possible dementia. “Dementia is a diagnosis of exclusion, so to be fair to the patient and to the caregiver, things have to be excluded.” She adds that other conditions, including side effects of medications, must be ruled out. Some conditions that mimic dementia symptoms may include:

Family members should also ensure that their senior loved one receives the Mini-Mental State Examination — a test that is considered the gold standard in helping to diagnose dementia.

6. What steps are next after a senior is diagnosed with dementia?

One of the most important considerations after a parent or senior loved one is diagnosed with dementia should be when and where they will receive the best care. Senior living options include:

  • An assisted living community
  • In-home care
  • Memory care
  • Long-term care (skilled nursing)

Depending on the stage of dementia, family members may select different levels of care for their senior loved one.

Are you a caregiver who has been with a parent or senior loved one when they were diagnosed with dementia? What questions did you ask their physician? We’d like to hear your stories in the comments below.

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Sherry Christiansen

Sherry Christiansen

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