If I let mom avoid a proper diagnosis, will it be too late for medication to help?

1 answer | Last updated: Oct 03, 2016
A fellow caregiver asked...

My mother was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment 1 1/2 yrs ago by a diagnostic Dr. but her follow-up Dr. was a specialist she didn't care for at all. I agree he was pretty ineffective. Mother decided to continue seeing her medical Dr. in her home town. This Drs. mother has alzheimers...and it appears to me she's treating mother as she did her own mother. I understand cognitive impairment as something different from alz. Am I wrong? I also understand that we should try to determine what is causing the cognitive impairment...and that hasn't been determined. I feel like I may be letting mother down by not insisting she see someone else (like it's an eventual death sentence and I'm doing nothing to slow it down or stop it). Mother wants to ignore the diagnosis and wishes she had never agreed to the testing. She still very capable making decisions. If we let her avoid follow-up it could be too late for meds to help. Any suggestions?

Expert Answers

Joanne Koenig Coste is a nationally recognized expert on Alzheimer's care and an outspoken advocate for patient and family care. She is the author of Learning to Speak Alzheimer's. Also, she currently is in private practice as an Alzheimer's family therapist. Ms. Koenig Coste also serves as President of Alzheimer Consulting Associates, implementing state-of-the-art Alzheimer care throughout the United States.

I understand how frustrated you must feel wanting the best for your mom who, like so many independent older women, wants to be the one making decisions as to whom she will choose for a physician. I'm sure a part of you applauds her independence.
Now, with that said, I strongly encourage you to have her see another doctor who specializes in cognitive-impairments. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) may be the result of several medical issues but most often leads to diseases such as Alzheimer's (AD). Early detection is often the key to keeping the patient stable for extended periods of time and early intervention with specific drugs may be quite helpful. Mom needs to know that ignoring the diagnosis will not make it go away and that if the cause of the MCI is a progressive neurological disease (AD and others) you will continue to be at her side - supporting and loving. Remember there is also a chance that the MCI will not progress and that too is something you both need to know. Be sure to take care of yourself as you care for mom.