Knowing what to do for a loved one you suspect may have dementia can be tricky — especially with the onset of COVID-19 — but April Stauffer, community outreach coordinator with the Alzheimer’s Association, has some suggestions for making the process easier. Although hospitals are operating at a reduced capacity, you can schedule an appointment with the doctor either in person or through telehealth. Prior to appointment, make a list of concerns about your loved one’s behavior to give to their doctor. “The more detailed the list is the more it will help in getting a better diagnosis,” April says.
During the appointment, the doctor will do blood work to rule out other potential causes such as: vitamin deficiencies, thyroid problems, medication interactions, and severe depression. If there are no problems with the bloodwork, the patient may be asked to undergo a MRI or CT scan, which can detect stroke damage or abnormal shrinkage of the brain. “A little shrinkage is normal, but if it doesn’t look like normal amounts, they will diagnose it as Alzheimer’s disease, because we don’t have a blood test to show this,” she says.
Other Helpful Advice
Choose your words carefully when expressing your concerns to your loved one. “Make sure the approach to getting your loved one to the doctor is considered, because you don’t want to scare the person to the point that they don’t want to go to the doctor. Don’t say, ‘Mom I think you have Alzheimer’s. We need to get you checked out.’ Instead say ‘Mom I have been noticing a few things about your memory and your other functioning. I think we should get you checked out to make sure everything is OK,’” she says.
Join an Alzheimer’s Association support group or call their 24-hour helpline at 800.272.3900. The groups correspond by phone, and the association offers a support group for people who are unable to visit with a family member staying in a nursing home because of restrictions.
BY TIFFANY WHITE