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What should I do if I suspect a loved one has dementia?

If you suspect a loved one has dementia, the first step is to have your loved one evaluated. Make an appointment with the individual's primary care doctor. The doctor will ask a variety of questions to determine if your loved one may be experiencing symptoms of dementia. Dementia can be a difficult diagnosis to make and may sometimes require further testing by a specialist.

Dr. Stephen T. Chen, MD
Geriatric Medicine Specialist

Certain behavioral disturbances, or psychiatric symptoms, associated with dementia are often the most challenging to handle when caring for someone with dementia. Such symptoms do not respond very well to some medications. They do get better, however, when you take steps to make sure the person and caregiver has the support they need in their everyday life. Change the environment to make sure the person does not become agitated, upset or depressed. Make sure there is appropriate stimulation at home or in the care facility. Check that all basic needs are met, including hunger, thirst and bathroom use.

You should take them to their primary care physician, if they have one. If the patient is already paranoid and their reasoning and judgment is poor, then it's better to take them to the local hospital where there is a mental health facility or a geriatric unit. The mental health facility is where they can do the full workup and evaluation. However, I would start with a primary care doctor.

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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.