Dementia Healthcare

5 Routine Checkups Someone With Dementia Needs

In the midst of coping with the behavioral and cognitive changes of dementia, it's easy to neglect routine healthcare. Make sure you have routine dental and vision checkups scheduled for your loved one for the coming year. Many unchecked vision and oral health problems can be mistaken for complications of dementia, when basic care can clear them up.

Let the care provider know in advance that the patient has dementia; this allows the staff to allot extra time for the appointment, if necessary. Some providers will schedule joint appointments -- for both you and your loved one.

  • Eye exam: Poor vision or the beginnings of common eye diseases of aging, including glaucoma and macular degeneration, can create confusion and hesitancy that make dementia symptoms seem worse. Many of these eye problems are slow to develop and fairly easy to correct. If your loved one wears glasses, make sure the prescription is up to date.

  • Dental exam: Untreated tooth and gum problems can lead to infections that create pain that your loved one may not be able to articulate. Furthermore, untreated infections can travel the short distance to the brain, causing worsened mental ability or even death. If your loved one wears dentures, their fit needs to be checked annually. (And people with dementia often forget to clean them.) Some dental practices specialize in patients with dementia, so it's worth asking your doctor to refer you to one.

  • Flu shot: They're recommended for all older adults. Consider the relatively new high-dose flu shot designed for adults over 65.

  • Other adult immunizations: Vaccines for shingles and the pneumonia are recommended for all adults over 65. Your doctor may also suggest shots (including boosters) for whooping cough, tetanus, and meningitis.

  • Podiatric (foot) care: Untrimmed toenails, open sores related to diabetes, hard calluses, and other common foot problems for older adults can all affect gait and increase your loved one's risk of falling. Because thorough foot care is often beyond the capability of at-home caregivers, periodic checkups are a good idea.

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