What kind of doctor should we see to diagnose dementia?

Joy #3 asked...

I'm child number 3 "the baby, but nearly 48 years old". From what all I have read, I believe My Mom is going through moderate dementia. She and I have always been sooo close, and this breaks my heart to see this happening right before my eyes. I'm trying to figure how how to choose the right doctor/specialist to help me with the "correct" diagnosis so I can make sure how to proceed with her care. I've taken her to a neurologist twice, and all they did was put her on medication that didn't help. He didn't even relate to me any details of what his diagnosis was. I work full-time, but talk with her every day/night and see her often. My sister is deceased, and my brother is not available. Please point me in the right direction for the doctor/specialist I need to seek. Her memory loss has taken a dramatic decline and I'm very concerned about her safety and her being alone. She will not move in with me, and doesn't want anybody staying with her at this point. She tells me that when she thinks it's dangerous, she'll let me know. I believe it's already reached that stage, or approaching rapidly. I've been advised to get a Guardianship, but My Mom has always been so independent, and I don't want to take that away from her if I don't need to. (Maybe, I'm in denial). I want her to be safe. (That's my number 1 priority). Thank you in advance, and this website has been so enlightening and helpful.

Expert Answer

Ladislav Volicer, M.D., Ph.D., is recognized as an international expert on advanced dementia care. He is a courtesy full professor at the School of Aging Studies, University of South Florida, Tampa, and visiting professor at the Third Medical Faculty, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic. Twenty-five years ago, he established one of the first dementia special care units.

A neurologist should be able to tell you what it the clinical diagnosis of your mother's dementia. However, the diagnosis may not be that important in her total care. You cannot rely on her to decide what is dangerous situation because dementia impaired her judgement. You need to evaluate the situation yourself and look for indications of dangerous situations, e.g., stove left on and other misuse of appliances, getting lost while walking outside, lapses in personal care. Is your mother still driving? If you feel that you do not get good advice from a neurologist regarding care of your mother, you might want to take her to a geriatrician, physician specializing in care of older individuals.