Alzheimer's Care Team
8 People You Need on Your Alzheimer's Care Team
Which professionals handle dementia?
Learning that your parent has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's is unsettling at best, but fortunately many experienced professionals deal with the disease every day and can provide you with information and guidance. For your parent, specialists can provide issue-specific advice and care for a whole range of health and lifestyle matters. For you, these experts have seen it all and know troves of resources that will make you feel less alone and better equipped for the challenges ahead.
Eight important professionals to have on your team:
A primary care physician
A trusted, experienced primary care physician (a "generalist," either an internist or family doctor) can monitor and treat a variety of health needs and also refer your parent to any necessary specialists, whatever health issues arise. This primary doctor should be relatively easy to reach, informed about Alzheimer's, and approachable -- he shouldn't mind answering lots of questions from concerned adult children.
Your parent's longtime doctor can be especially valuable in this role, as he can help judge the changes she undergoes. If her regular family physician doesn't have much experience with Alzheimer's disease, however, or doesn't seem to satisfactorily attend to her Alzheimer's-related needs, consider transferring to a new doctor.
A physician specialist
Look for any of the following doctors who specialize in an area related to Alzheimer's and have extensive knowledge and experience in treating patients with this disease:
- A geriatrician (specialist in geriatrics, or aging)
- A physician who gives comprehensive medical care (training in family medicine or internal medicine) but specializes in patients over 50
- A neurologist (physician who specializes in disorders of the nervous system; there is also a subspecialty of geriatric neurology)
- A psychiatrist (a physician who specializes in mental illness; there is also a subspecialty of geriatric psychiatry).
It can be useful to consult multiple specialists, depending on your parent's needs and the specialists' expertise. As a starting place, ask your parent's primary care doctor for referrals.