Alzheimer's Disease is no doubt a life-changing diagnosis for not only you but also your family. It can come as an initial shock and the magnitude of what has just occurred may not even register until you are well on your way home or even possibly a few days afterward. The most important thing that you and your family can do in this situation is to be prepared.
In this article, we will focus on the top six questions you should ask your doctor when being diagnosed for Alzheimer's Disease.
Question 1: What do I do now?
After a doctor suspects that you may be suffering from Alzheimer's disease, the first and most important question should be what happens next. This can be a complicated time where you will need to do numerous tests and studies in order to rule out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms. It is in your best interest to sit down with your physician and ask this question so they can draw out the diagnostic workup step by step. Your doctor will explain what specialists you should get in contact with and what types of brain imaging studies that would be beneficial on the path to an accurate diagnosis. This can go a long way in making you feel better about this challenging diagnosis.
Question 2: How can this be happening to me?
It is no secret that there is a high correlation between patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease and depression. This can start from the moment that a person is diagnosed with the disease and can severely affect the life of not only the patient but also their loved ones. The key to this question is designed to help you cope with this new disease. There are several risk factors that can put you at risk for having this disease. Some of them are out of your control, such as family genetics. In this circumstance, it is best for you to meet with your doctors early on to screen for early signs of Alzheimer's. Other risk factors that are more controllable would be chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes that can accelerate the damage being done in your brain.
Question 3: Is this really Alzheimer's disease?
This is a very important question to ask doctors, because Alzheimer's is often referred to as a diagnosis of exclusion. This means that doctors will need to run through a gauntlet of tests in order to rule out any other potential cause of your memory decline. In the real world, there is a big gap between what we learn in medical school as specific symptoms of a disease compared to what you may actually encounter during patient interactions. This means that the same disease can present quite differently in different patients. It is important to help ensure the doctor is keeping an open mind of other potential conditions and provide an adequate workup to make sure that no stone is left unturned.
Question 4: What stage could I be at already?
When it comes to Alzheimer's, you may already be aware that there are three distinctive phases of the disease. Having a doctor try to place you in one of these three categories would be a very useful idea for you to get a good idea of the expected prognosis. Earlier stages of the disease are more likely to respond to therapy while later stages are marked by more severe decline. This will help families plan out the additional help that could be necessary and give a rough estimation of how quickly the symptoms will emerge.
Question 5: What treatments are available for Alzheimer's?
This is also another pertinent question that you should discuss with your physician. Depending on the stage, there are several options that you can try to improve your current state and prolong the number of quality life years you can expect to have. There a few medications on the market that can significantly improve your mental functioning. Drugs like donepezil and memantine are two of the most commonly used drugs in this situation. They will be able to prolong the actions of chemicals in the brain to help neurons send signals. The effectiveness of these drugs is obvious but medication is also only to be considered a temporary cure. Studies show the average impact of this therapy can last about one to two years before patients will notice a decline.
Question 6: What are the most important things I can do during the early stages of Alzheimer's?
This is a potentially uncomfortable topic for you, your family and the physician when it comes to a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease but it is important to smooth out any potential difficulties as seamlessly as possible while a patient with Alzheimer's still has mental competency. This means the ability to make decisions on your own.
Patients with early-stage Alzheimer's disease can have highly functioning lives still but it is something that will decline in the coming years. It is imperative to have some type of written advanced directive that you can prepare in order to help guide future therapies once a patient progresses to more severe forms of the disease.