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What to Do When Your Loved One Refuses to See a Doctor for an Alzheimer's Diagnosis

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What to Do When Your Loved One Refuses to See a Doctor for an Alzheimer's Diagnosis

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease would be an unwelcome, life-altering event for any of us. Therefore, it is understandable that a loved one who is exhibiting symptoms of dementia might want to avoid a formal diagnosis and the reality of Alzheimer’s as a new part of their life – and even refuse to see their doctor of many years

Alzheimer’s authorities tell us that this form of denial – avoiding a diagnosis by refusing to see the doctor –  is common. After all, contemplating a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and the long-term impact on one’s life can be traumatic.

Crystal Yost, PCHA, PCH, Administrator at Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr located in Bryn Mawr, PA, says, “The period of fear and denial that often occurs when a loved one begins to show symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease can be extremely challenging – for both the loved one and their family members. During this time, the best advice for the family of the loved one with dementia symptoms is to offer as much love, understanding and support as possible.

“But to provide them with the kind of support they will need, it is also critical that they see the doctor as soon as possible for a complete evaluation. There are many instances where memory loss can occur as a result of something other than dementia, but only a doctor will know.”

Why Seeing the Doctor for an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis is Critical

According to the Alzheimer’s Association® and other experts, the sooner you can get your loved one to a physician for a formal diagnose the better.”

The important advantages of early detection include:

  • You can explore treatments that may provide some relief of symptoms and help your loved one maintain a level of independence longer.
  • A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s allows your loved one to take part in decisions about their care, transportation, living options, financial and legal matters.
  • Care and support services are available, making it easier for your loved one and your family to live the best life possible with Alzheimer’s
  • Early diagnosis helps you and your friends adjust to your loved one’s condition, rather than becoming angry at their unusual actions and possible negative personality changes. It allows everyone to be more understanding and compassionate with the person.

Crystal adds, “For some families, getting their loved one to agree to see the doctor is extremely difficult. Sometimes, loved ones just refuse to go. Fortunately, experts on the subjects of Alzheimer’s behaviors and refusal to see the doctor provide some helpful suggestions.”

Tips for Convincing Your Loved One to See the Doctor

In her article, “How to Convince a Loved One With Alzheimer’s Symptoms to Go to the Doctor, award-winning author Marie Marley states, “Many strategies can be tried to convince the person to visit a physician. You may be able to reason with those who have mild symptoms, although it may take several discussions before they agree to be seen. You might also ask a good friend or favorite relative to speak with the person. Sometimes, people will pay more attention to someone other than the primary caregiver. You could also ask the person’s physician or attorney to talk with them about it.”

Other suggestions include explaining to your loved one that there are new medications that may help with memory, but they must be prescribed by a doctor. Also, try asking them for a personal favor. Loved ones will sometimes do things for those who are important to them that they might not otherwise do. Therefore, ask them to see the doctor as a personal favor to you.

“Fibbing” is Also Acceptable to Give Your Loved One the Diagnosis They Need

Additionally, eldercare author and lecturer, Jacqueline Marcell, states in her article, “What Do I Do if My Parent Refuses to Go to The Doctor?, “If your aging parent is experiencing memory loss and needs to be evaluated by a dementia specialist but refuses to go, ask their primary care physician to rave about the new doctor, saying how much he/she has helped so many of his other patients over the years. Clue the primary care doctor in to say something like, ‘Dr. Smith has helped so many of my patients with their memory problems (never use ‘Alzheimer's' or ‘dementia'), but she has such a long waiting list that I don't know if I can get you in. I'll get your records over to her office and then when you are in that area, go in and put your name on the waiting list, as you have to do that in person. I think it's probably a six month or longer waiting list because she's so good.’

“Then set up the appointment and clue in everyone, including the receptionist. Take your loved one to lunch and don't say a word about your plans. Pretend you have an errand and casually drive by the new doctor's office and say, ‘Oh, here's where that Dr. Smith's office is that your doctor wants you to see. Let's go in and put your name on the waiting list while we're here, since it is going to be such a long time before we can get in to see her.’ Be casual, go sign in and then say, ‘Oh my gosh, the doctor has a cancellation and can see us right now! What luck we are having!’

“Okay, so it requires what I call a little ‘fibology,’ but hey, whatever works!”

Preparing for the Doctor Visit

When your loved one agrees to see the doctor for a possible diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia, the Alzheimer’s Association® article, “Visiting Your Doctor,”   provides some useful tips that can help you best prepare for a successful visit.

Says Crystal, “The possibility that your loved one might have Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia creates much anxiety. No one wants to contemplate a future that includes Alzheimer’s. But as memory care experts advise, early diagnosis is important and can help to ease some of the burdens for everyone involved – from providing the right care and support to making important legal and financial decisions for the future. As you support your loved one through their diagnosis and the journey beyond, remember that love, empathy and compassion are as important as any medication or treatment.”

We encourage you to contact us with any questions you have on dementia care or to schedule a tour. Also, we invite you to read our timely blog articles on current caregiver and dementia care topics posted on our website.

We Would Love to Hear from You!

If you have comments or questions about our blog, we’d love to hear from you. We also encourage you to share any of your caregiving experiences in our comments section.

Engaging Days. Meaningful Moments.

Loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease or other memory impairments require specialized care and support. They also deserve a lifestyle rich in dignity and fulfillment. Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr provides residents with Engaging Days and Meaningful Moments that emphasize individual abilities, encourage socialization and promote the highest level of independence possible. We offer a complete continuum of leading-edge programs, services and amenities that address the total physical, emotional and social needs of residents in a caring setting that offers individual suites with large private baths and the comfort of home. Our memory care community touches hearts and changes lives.

Helping Families Be “Family” Again

Memory loss caused by Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or another form of memory impairment doesn’t only affect the person who has it – it affects the entire family.

If you have a loved one with early- to mid-stage memory loss, you know how challenging it can be to provide the care that’s needed while trying to maintain balance in your life. As care needs increase, you may not be able to meet them physically or emotionally. It’s often difficult to be available to care for your loved one’s health and well-being around the clock.

If and when the time comes to seek additional help, place your trust in Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr. We lift the stresses and worries of being a caregiver from your shoulders, enabling you and your family to enjoy time with your loved one again.

For more information, please call Crystal at 484.386.6323 or contact us online.

Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Impressions Memory Care at Bryn Mawr and Main Line Senior Care Alliance for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.