Early diagnosis can improve quality of life if it is dementia, and if it is not, your doctor can discuss other reasons for short-term memory loss and treatment options.
The older the patients, the less likely they are to discuss a memory problem with their doctor during an office visit, according to a review of federal government data from more than 10,000 people. This review, published in Preventing Chronic Disease, also revealed that in 2011 as few as 1 in 4 adults age 45 and older discussed memory problems with their physician during routine checkups. The journal article and its findings were reported in US News & World Report's "Too Few Older Adults Tell Doctors About Memory Loss: Study."
Routine checkups can be a missed opportunity for assessing and discussing memory problems for the majority of older adults. Experts say the stigma of memory loss and dementia may keep some from discussing these issues with their doctors.
Many think that as long as we don't mention it, memory loss might just be normal aging. However, talking about memory troubles doesn't necessarily mean you have dementia. It might be another highly treatable condition, like depression. But if it is related to dementia, recognizing it early is crucial.
Patients can meet with family members and an experienced elder law attorney to get advice on making individualized decisions for their care, rather than relying on last-minute decisions.
Memory loss and the possibility of the early onset of dementia is a difficult discussion for both the physician and patient, particularly in light of the long-term implications. However, early diagnosis of dementia is important, as even mild memory loss from early Alzheimer's disease may be improved with medication (although these prescriptions don't stop the disease's progression).
Having a discussion with your physician about memory loss and whether the lapses are occasional or increasing in frequency will allow your condition to be assessed. If specialized testing is done, then you and your doctor will know if your situation requires treatment or special planning. This is just like any other condition that requires diagnosis and, if indicated, treatment.
Please visit our website for information on elder law, Medi-Cal Planning and estate planning issues, and sign up for our free monthly e-newsletter. The archive on our website contains numerous blog posts on these legal areas as well. You can also “friend” us on Facebook (R Christine Brown) to receive periodic posts on elder law issues or follow us on Twitter (rchristinebrown).
Reference: US News & World Report (January 28, 2016) "Too Few Older Adults Tell Doctors about Memory Loss: Study"