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When it comes to the diagnosis of AD, a lot of stress is probably swirling around your head. Keep these simple tips in mind to help alleviate the burden and help get you prepared for your visit to the doctor.

Alzheimer's Disease is a disease that can take quite a while to diagnose, because its symptoms can be very similar to those seen in numerous other conditions. One of the main indications of the disease would be memory loss, but it can be quite tricky to differentiate between Alzheimer's and normal aging. Self-awareness of this decline in memory is often the first reason a patient will come to visit a medical doctor. Even if you may not be a medical expert yourself, there are several things you can do as a patient to help expedite the diagnostic process.

In this article, we will spotlight some useful tips to help prepare for a doctor's appointment in which you'll discuss possible Alzheimer's disease

Tip 1: Bring your spouse with you during your initial visits 

This can be something that can be difficult to coordinate if both partners have difficulty walking but if possible, the best thing that can help a doctor early on in the diagnostic process would be to have the testimony of multiple sources in order to get a full assessment of the gaps in memory. By the time you may be aware of your own memory decline, symptoms are often already moderate or even severe.

Your partner can give very helpful insights into what types of things you may be forgetting and whether the problem has gotten progressively worse. Although children of these patients often accompany the patient to the doctor, they likely do not spend most of their day with the patient and can only provide a partial testimony of what they have noticed. 

Tip 2: Write down a list of all your medications before the visit

Another useful tip is to make a note of all the medications that you are currently taking. This can give the doctor a good idea of additional co-morbidities and other diseases that you currently have. It is quite probable that these conditions can actually exacerbate memory decline or temporary amnesia so doctors must rule out these diseases first to make sure a treatable cause of memory loss can be addressed.

Another benefit of writing down all your medications would be that doctors can determine if any of the drugs themselves could be causing the symptoms. Common medications that are used to treat diabetes and hypertension can cause memory loss as a side effect. Having a list prepared with these drugs, doses, and the times of day you can take the medications can help guide the doctors in working through their list of differential diagnoses. 

Tip 3: Prepare a folder with all of your last blood tests, hospitalizations and imaging studies 

In the age of modern medicine, this is something that hopefully will not be necessary for patients to do themselves in the near future but as of now, it is still something that has to be done and is very helpful for a medical doctor to peruse. Even if most of the results are found on electronic medical records, there is no guarantee that the systems that are used in one hospital will be compatible with another system so it may take some time to track down results.

It is quite frustrating for the medical team to try to contact different hospitals or clinics to forward on results so the best way to bypass this dilemma will be to have patients hold on to a copy of these results and bring them with the patient during a medical visit. Bringing a copy of the MRI or CT imaging studies that you may have had done in the past for different reasons could also be very valuable for a doctor. They will be able to see what different structures looked like years earlier to determine if this is something that you are were born with or something that has progressively gotten worse. 

Tip 4: Keep a diary of all your recent symptoms and changes 

This is not your typical journal entry that you may have kept as a young child, but should instead focus behavioral or cognitive changes that you have noticed.

A good practice to get into would be to pull out the journal when you forget something you were trying to recall and then write down the time at which these symptoms began. This will help the doctor be able to substantiate what types of memory problems seem to be plaguing you the most.

With this information, the doctor will also be able to determine if these gaps in your memory are severe enough to require additional help at home. A forgotten date or a missed appointment can be bothersome to say the least but in most cases, patients are able to still live independently. As the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease worsen, however, you may start to forget things like your home address, food cooking on the stove, or to pay your bills or taxes. These should be considered to be alarm symptoms and signify that a patient will not be able to live alone anymore. 

Tip 5: Prepare a list of questions and concerns that you want to have answered 

When it comes to the work-up for a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, it is no surprise that you may be extremely stressed and worried about the entire process. This is completely natural. What you can do to try to help stifle the anxiety partially would be jotting down a list of questions that come up between your doctor visits. These questions can easily come to mind, but can also be easily forgotten during the pressure of a medical office visit with a doctor.

If there is something you are unsure of or do not have a complete understanding of, do not be afraid to ask your doctor for a more thorough explanation of what to expect. This can dramatically improve the experience so you have a clear plan in place. Even if it may not all be good news, learning about the symptoms, prognosis and treatment options can help keep everyone on the same page of what is going on in the therapy. 

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