Severe Dementia and Doctors

3 Questions to Ask the Doctor About Severe-Stage Dementia

1. Are these drugs necessary? The medications your loved one has been taking for months may no longer be warranted or be at the appropriate dose for his or her current mental state. Often you won't know unless you ask the doctor. Most memory drugs, for example, have lost effectiveness by late-stage dementia if they've been taken for a long time. Drugs for other conditions can often be safely discontinued now as well, saving money, the hassle of administering them, and possible side effects. Instead of automatically refilling prescriptions, bring a complete roster of meds to the next doctor visit and ask to have them all reevaluated.

2. How often are checkups necessary? By the time your loved one has severe-stage dementia, there's little benefit to seeing six different specialists for the management of multiple conditions. Talk to each doctor to find out how care can be simplified. Ask one doctor to be the lead person coordinating care, if this isn't already in place.

3. Is palliative care an option? Palliative care is comfort care; unlike hospice care, the patient doesn't need to have a short-term prognosis. Palliative care is ideal for those with advanced dementia because it minimizes aggressive care, supports home care (but can also take place in facilities), and emphasizes following the preferences made in advance directives. A team of specialists provides care, which is also greatly supportive to caregivers.

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio