How do I know if a referral for an Alzheimer’s specialist is a good one?

Dr. Dede Bonner
Health Education Specialist

One of the best ways to judge a prospective doctor’s quality is through the recommendation from another doctor. Most doctors are sincerely interested in the well-being of their patients and refer them to the doctors they believe offer the best care.

If you are asking a medical professional why he or she is recommending a doctor, listen for an answer that includes how impressive this person is in the field of Alzheimer’s disease. Key phrases are “participated in clinical trials” and “presented papers at professional conferences.” These are extra-effort activities that earn respect among medical peers. But don’t stop there; listen for clues about this prospective doctor’s bedside manners as well as his superstar performance at last year’s medical conference.

Don’t assume that someone is a good doctor just because your primary care doctor has referred you to him. Some doctors fall into referral patterns of always recommending the same doctor down the hallway or a former college roommate. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it helps if you know this piece of background information.

If you are talking with caregivers or patients, a good follow-up question is, “How did you originally find this doctor?” If she found the doctor without doing her homework, or even worse, from the Yellow Pages, take this person’s diminished credibility into account.

If you are asking a medical professional, you want to hear that this person has worked closely with the recommended doctor for a number of years. If you are seeking a second opinion, the doctors may not know each other as well, so listen for clues about the prospective doctor’s reputation.

If you are asking a caregiver or current patient, ask how long she has known this doctor to make sure her judgments aren’t based on a short-lived or long-ago relationship.

Depending on the referrer’s degree of openness and willingness to talk, you may get all the details you need by simply asking how satisfied she is. Be sure to press gently for details on the areas that need improvement. Everyone has shortcomings, and this question will help you assess if you can live with this doctor’s particular deficiencies or quirks.

The 10 Best Questions for Living with Alzheimer's: The Script You Need to Get the Best Care for Your Loved One

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The 10 Best Questions for Living with Alzheimer's: The Script You Need to Get the Best Care for Your Loved One

A good mind knows the right answers...but a great mind knows the right questions. And never are the 10 Best Questions™ more important than after the life-altering diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. ...

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.