Should we get a second opinion?

A fellow caregiver asked...

My 73 year old mother was diagnosed with mild dementia. I went to visit her for a week and she seemed fine. She did not exhibit any signs that I heard about. Prior to my visit, I did notice some signs that are exhibited with this disease when we spoke on the phone and from other family members. Could this have been a misdiagnosis?

Also, on her follow-up doctors visit, she saw a different doctor in the same practice. This doctor stated she did not have dementia but something that used to be called senile. He gave her high blood pressure medicine and cholesterol meds as well as advising her to take an aspirin per day.

Should I seek a second opinion? Thank you.

Expert Answer

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.

YES! We want to offer our loved ones the best possible medical attention including appropriate diagnosis of any changes that effect mood, personality, cognition, and memory. I would suggest a second opinion even without the differing diagnoses given by the two physicians she has already seen."Dementia" is NOT a diagnosis but instead it is a symptom of something that has changed with a negative impact. You need to find what is causing the so-called Dementia. The reason we seek a diagnosis is to rule out possible treatable causes of the changes in our loved ones. Getting a second opinion seems the next logical step to enable you to get on with the appropriate care and planning for your Mom's future. A diagnosis of Alzheimer's really cannot be made unless a complete Neuo-workup has been completed. There are many physical (and mental) issues that may mimic Alzheimer's in an older population - many are completely treatable and some are totally reversible. It behooves us to get the proper diagnosis ASAP and begin treatment - whatever the diagnosis may be.