Alzheimer's Disease is a condition marked by the progressive decline in memory and cognition. It is not a disease of aging but there is a tendency to have higher incidences in the elderly population. It is caused by the accumulation of misfolded proteins known as plaques and as far as modern medicine is concerned, we still do not have a viable cure for this disease. The key to managing this condition is to be aware of the early warning signs of AD and to have brain imaging studies done as early as possible. Before you jump ahead too quickly, it is important to still meet with a specialist in order to start the diagnostic process. Here, we will focus on the top 6 questions a doctor might ask you when you are being diagnosed for Alzheimer's Disease and the answers that you should have prepared for them.
Question 1: Is there a history of AD in your family?
Perhaps the most important question to consider when you are trying to diagnose AD would be trying to trace out a family history of the disease. Numerous studies have shown the connection between DNA and AD. Patients that have a history of this disease will have a higher probability of acquiring the disease themselves. It is best to try to ascertain the history of illnesses in a patient's immediate family. What can even be more helpful for physicians during the time of diagnosis would be an approximate age of when parents, grandparents or siblings were diagnosed to determine if there is a greater chance for early-onset AD.
Question 2: What types of things are you forgetting now?
Another important component of AD that a doctor needs to be aware of is what types of things you may be forgetting. A key factor of AD is the decline in short-term memory so patients will have a noticeable difficulty in recalling facts they just learned recently. The frequency of these episodes would also be important to know in order to assess how debilitating these symptoms are. This will help identify what stage of AD a patient may be experiencing and what type of treatment option may be most appropriate for the patient.
Question 3: Have you noticed a change in your mood?
This is something that is quite important for doctors to also be aware of when they are talking to a patient suspected of having AD. As your brain begins to decline, the areas that most likely will be affected first would be part of your frontal cortex. This is the area of the brain that is responsible for your personality and behavior. Slight changes may not be noticeable at first but people are often quite self-aware that they are acting differently once the disease progresses. Generalized mood changes are helpful for doctors to help guide their therapeutic decisions but what could be even more helpful would be documented accounts of these incidences. Journal or diary entries are some of the best ways to accomplish this. These resources are great materials for doctors to objectively look at these findings. Family members can also be asked about any noticeable changes in your personality or behavior. Make sure you bring a spouse or close friend with you during your initial visits so a doctor can ask for their testimony as well.
Question 4: Are you currently taking any other medications?
This will be a typical question you will likely encounter any time you visit a doctor's office but this would be a question that carries more weight in this circumstance. There are several medications that you may be taking that could lead to lapses in memory or concentration problems that could be due to the side effects of the medications. Many antidepressants that are on the market have been linked to causing dementia in patients. This would lead to memory loss that is actually quite reversible. Even common anti-histamines that are on the market like Benadryl have been linked to temporary memory loss. Having a detailed list of all the medications and doses of each is something that I would strongly encourage before going to meet with your doctor. This will help him determine if some of the drugs you are taking could be causing these AD-like symptoms.
Question 5: What other medical conditions have you been diagnosed with?
This is also another typical question that you may hear when you go to any doctors office. In this case though, there are a number of co-morbidities that you may have that can predispose you to have early-onset AD. Chronic conditions like hypertension and diabetes can actually increase the speed of how quickly the symptoms will appear; especially if you do not adequately control the condition. A good habit to get into also would be to write down the measurements of your blood sugar and blood pressure that you'd be taking yourself at home in order to show the doctor how controlled the condition is. A history of AD in the family and having these types of chronic conditions can significantly increase your chances for eventually being diagnosed with AD yourself. The best thing you can do is to adequately control your hypertension and diabetes through good dieting and watching your weight.
Question 6: Are you living alone or with a spouse?
This will also be a very important question that can go a long way into planning potential therapies for you if AD is likely. This is a debilitating disease that will most likely require a lot of effort from a spouse or close friends in order to help care for someone diagnosed with AD. If you are diagnosed with AD and living alone, it will become more and more difficult for you to live independently. The natural course of the disease entails you forgetting more and more information have the loss of the ability to care for yourself. Having a support team in place can go a long way into deciding what the best course of action will be for therapy. If you do live alone, a good option would be to start considering assisted living facilities early on and make arrangements beforehand to simplify the transition into this new environment.