What to Tell New Healthcare Providers About a Loved One's Dementia

If your loved one needs medical care outside of his or her usual group of care providers, you can help make the experience a smoother, more respectful one by providing a little "crash training" to healthcare providers on how to interact with someone who has dementia.

Whether the provider is a specialist doctor, a physical therapist, a rehab specialist, a nursing aide, or any other kind of medical staffer, politely go over these three things:

  • Let care providers know at the outset that there are memory issues. You can't say this often enough, even if the information is right there in the chart.

  • Tell the staff how the person likes to be addressed (Mrs. Smith, Dr. Smith, Carol). Call them on it when they revert to a name your loved one dislikes or a patronizing "dearie" (if you know your loved one would be offended).

  • Ask that they include the person in the conversation, rather than talking as if he or she weren't in the room. Often doctors talk to the caregiver instead of the patient because it's more efficient. But the person with dementia should not be ignored entirely, which can be unnerving to both of you.

    SEE ALSO: Find Memory Care Near You


about 2 years ago, said...

Your remark about "dearie" is so very important. please repeat it again and again. Thank you.


over 2 years ago, said...

It is very helpful for me to have this site. I always have questions and a lot of them have been answered here. Thank you


over 3 years ago, said...

The tips reminded me what to do with new doctors, of which we have several.


over 3 years ago, said...

I have been going with my father to doctors for a couple years now, since he had gotten so much more forgetful. He doesn't want my mom to go, because she just takes over the conversation and makes it what she wants it to be about. I go over with him ahead of time what he is concerned about, and even keep a running list on my computer, since he will forget. I just jot things down as he tells me about phsyical or memory things he wants to ask a doctor about. Then, right before the appointment, I remind him of what I have notes about and ask if things should still be on his list. I joke with him about how I am his secretary and his 'other brain'. I have th ability to fax, so I always write a fax and on the cover sheet I give the details of his app't and tell them I want the fax to be with the doctor ahead of time to assure we cover everything efficiently. They love the word 'efficiently' in busy offices! Then, I can list things I am concerned about and ask that they be brought up without mentioning the fax and I put in it the list of what my Dad want's covered. The doctors seem to understand and haven't blown my cover yet! They will say, " Well your daughter sent me a list of your concerns' or such...and then later will bring up other things. With my dad it's drinking or progression of dementia...things that he cannot see as a problem but I do or Mom does. If you can fax, this has worked well for me. I live 5 hours away, so faxing is my only way to communicate with doctors before we go.


about 4 years ago, said...

This is so very important. My husband has advanced dementia but still has knowledge and "feelings" of what is going on around him. I am still at a loss as to how doctors within the same medical group - and who have received information from the primary doctor - still do not recognize the fact that my husband has dementia. You would be astounded at some of the things that are said to him. It's very sad to witness these events.


about 4 years ago, said...

I agree with everything said, especially through experience. It was nice to see my thoughts on this are all viewed the same.


over 4 years ago, said...

Well - here's a problem not mentioned in the article...what if the patient is EXTREMELY sensitive about her dementia and throws an absolute fit if you mention it to the doctor or staff? I am my mother's guardian and that is the situation I am in with her. So - I started writing a letter to the new doctor & staff that explained the problem, her mental status and my guardianship so I could give it to them when I checked in (when my mother is usually sitting down pretending to read a magazine). Problem I have had repeatedly with this method? Nobody reads it!! No matter what I say to the front desk staff, it ends up buried in the back of the file. It is sooo aggravating to be doing all you can to manage the situation, only to be ignored by medical personnel - the very ones that you would expect to be the most understanding and helpful.


over 4 years ago, said...

My wife has complained to me about those very things. I try to remember, but I'm not perfect, and I never would have thought to tell her doctor again. Thank you. Every little bit helps.


over 4 years ago, said...

Including the person in the conversation is very important. I have to remind her friends of this. Sometimes people direct a conversation to me even though she is standing right there. When this happens I will turn to wife and ask"what do you think" or something similar to make sure she is included. Doug


over 4 years ago, said...

Having the docter talk to both the caregiver and the patient. I, the caregiver, have experienced the docter talking to me only.


about 5 years ago, said...

Your comment on doctors would rather talk to the caregiver is absolutely correct. Even his psychiatrist limits or specifically talks to me instead of him. I have to ask him to express himself to her. Most of the time he just tells her he has nothing to say to her. I know different, but also I know if she excludes him he will not respond to her at all. Thanks for your input and I will share a copy of this information with her in six months. He's at her office in the VA clinic only twice a year. So, it;s hard to open him up to her since our time is very limited.


over 5 years ago, said...

Serves as a great reminder. I always address bullet point one. Usually several times throughout the process. Never thought of #2. When #3 happens I usually remark something like " Mom, what do you think about that? Or How do you feel about that - do you have any questions?" My mom's dementia is such that it hasn't put her on the spot yet so she engages in the conversation as well.


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