Alzheimer’s Association offers tips for discussing cognitive concerns with your doctor as part of your New Year’s Resolution

The Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter encourage individuals to make a new year’s resolution to speak with their health care provider regarding cognitive concerns. Today, there are more than 6 million people 65 and older who are living with Alzheimer’s dementia, with 233,000 in Illinois.

The emphasis on early detection underscores the proactive approach towards cognitive health. By likening routine health check-ups like blood pressure, cholesterol, and skin checks. Cognitive health as an integral part of an individual’s overall wellness routine.

The call for everyone, even those not currently experiencing memory problems, to speak with their medical provider if there are any concerns. It emphasizes the preventative aspect of healthcare, encouraging individuals to address potential issues before they become more serious. The comparison to other facets of health further reinforces the idea that cognitive health should be treated with the same level of importance as other aspects of physical well-being.

The phrase “check-up from the neck up” is not only catchy but also effectively communicates the significance of cognitive health. It simplifies a potentially sensitive topic and encourages individuals to take action in a positive and memorable way.

Early detection and diagnosis of these conditions offers the best opportunity for care management and treatment. It also provides diagnosed individuals and their caregivers more time to plan for the future, adopt lifestyle changes that may help slow disease progression, participate in clinical trials and to live with higher quality of life, for as long as possible. Early detection and diagnosis are the first steps towards creating a plan of action.

According to the 2023 Alzheimer’s Association Facts and Figures report, too often individuals with memory concerns are not discussing the issue with their doctor — only 4 in 10 would talk to their doctor right away. Individuals hesitate because they believe their experiences are related to normal aging, rather than a potential diagnosable medical condition. Yet, 7 in 10 would want to know early if they have Alzheimer’s disease if it could allow for earlier treatment.

“While discussing cognitive concerns with your health care provider can be challenging, it’s really important,” said Delia Jervier, Executive Director, Alzheimer’s Association, Illinois Chapter. “Having these conversations with a doctor can help facilitate early detection and diagnosis, offering individuals and families important benefits, not only treatments, but emotional and social benefits, access to clinical trials and more time to plan the future. It is also important to note that some forms of cognitive decline are treatable.”

Find the right doctor. In most cases, the first point of contact for concerns about memory and thinking is with your primary care physician. Ask your physician how comfortable they are identifying and diagnosing cognitive problems and whether there are circumstances in which he or she would refer to a specialist. Most often, your physician will perform an initial assessment, and if cognitive decline is detected, order more advanced testing or refer you to a specialist for a more definitive diagnosis. If your doctor doesn’t take your concerns seriously, seek a second opinion.

Be prepared. Come to your visit with a list of any changes in your health, including your mood, memory and behaviors. Include a list of past and current medical problems, current prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, including vitamins or supplements. Most importantly, be sure to have your list of questions and be prepared to answer the doctor’s questions openly and honestly.

Get educated. When speaking to the doctor, be sure to ask what tests will be performed, what the tests involve, how long each test takes and when the results will be available. The Alzheimer’s Association offers an interactive tour of what to expect when being evaluated for memory and thinking problems on its website.

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