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What to do when you visit the doctor with Mom (or Dad)?

stethoscopeHeartSo, you got mom to the doctor and even went with her. You sat quietly when she told the doctor she had nothing to report. Maybe the doctor even did a mini-mental exam and agreed that mom was fine and set up a follow-up appointment for 6 months or a year. You have noticed issues with her memory or behavior and are concerned, but it doesn’t seem like your mom’s doctor is.

There are several things you can do to help make your visit more productive:

– Contact the office in advance to tell them your concerns and let them know you are coming in with mom. Give specific examples of events.

– Talk to mom about the concerns in advance and share them while you are in the office with your mom.

I tried both of these tactics. My mom would refute or deny examples. She continued to do this with the doctors when they would tell her she had a stroke and later when vascular dementia was diagnosed.

One thing that worked well was to use my dad’s inability to answer his own medication questions as a flag to the doctor. When my dad was asked about surgeries, he would report “none” and I would then speak up to add that he had a pin in his hip as a result of a break within the past year. My dad was also unable to answer any questions about his medications or conditions, he would just reply “none”. I would use his inability to advocate for himself to demonstrate his memory issue, even though the doctor had just administered the mini-mental exam on which my dad would usually score 29 out of 30.

The psychiatrist who initially diagnosed that my dad may have Alzheimer’s told me that I was going to have to be sneaky if I wanted to help my parents. I resisted feeling like it was disrespectful. We have always had open communication, but that was not the case when it came to my parent’s health or help from any of their children.

I had to wait for catastrophic failures in their lives before I was given a window to help. It took several before I was really able to help them, and I proceeded gently.

Knowing what your loved one may be facing will help you and help them be involved in the many choices you will face. I suggest you work to make an appointment with a Psychiatrist, Psychologist or Neurologist and request a neuropsychiatric evaluation (pen and paper tests). Even if to just get a memory benchmark. You may need to present it as a follow-up appointment requested by their doctor, and hopefully, you can get their doctor to help at least make this one referral. If not, you could make the appointment and let them know it was recommended. It’s a little on the “sneaky” side, but recognize that if they don’t remember or recall this request–that is a good reason to consider using this tactic. Advised.

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