Convincing someone with memory loss to see a doctor

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Transcript

Today’s topic is about convincing someone living with dementia or really with just early stages of memory loss issues to go to the doctor.

The answer is…you probably don’t. Because you probably won’t convince them to go to the doctor. And here’s why. First of all, we don’t know if they think that anything is wrong with them. I’ve had people ask me, well, you know, I know something’s wrong with my dad. Like, how do I, how do I convince him that something’s wrong with him? You probably can’t. And also, why would we really want to? The only thing that’s important is that if someone’s memory loss is impacting their daily life, you know that you’re going to eventually have to start making decisions for them. The fact that they know that, is probably not going to help. But it really just depends on how self-aware your loved one is, right?

Do people know that they have dementia? Some people probably do. I have had people I’ve worked with who have no idea that anything’s wrong. I can tell that they don’t know anything’s wrong, and then I’ve worked with people who are very depressed and very upset with the fact that they’re having some issues cognitively. And I’ve also met and worked with people who know they have cognitive issues and they’re okay with it. They’ve accepted it and they’re trying to move past it, emotionally. So we really don’t know if someone knows that they have cognitive issues and trying to convince them that they have to go to the doctor to get checked out, is probably kind of futile. And what’s going to happen is you’re just going to end up in an argument with them about whether or not anything’s wrong for someone to admit that something is wrong with their brain is kind of counterintuitive.

It takes a pretty self-aware person to admit that something’s wrong in life. You know, it takes a pretty self-aware person for someone to say, I know that something is wrong and I’m going to do something about it. But then it also takes a certain level of cognitive functioning. So you have to understand that something could be wrong and there’s a chance that your loved one living with dementia is actually past the point where they may even be able to recognize that something is wrong. So, in conclusion, it’s probably not super useful to spend a great deal of time trying to convince someone with dementia that they have dementia. Because really the bottom line is if you know that something’s wrong, you’re going to be the person anyway, who’s dealing with the other issues. You know when to move somebody into assisted living or you know when to call somebody to get help with home care. You’re going to be the person doing all that anyway. So whether they agree that something’s wrong with them is really not going to help you too much.

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Rachael Wonderlin is an internationally-recognized dementia care expert and consultant. She has a Master’s in Gerontology and is the author of three published books with Johns Hopkins University Press. Rachael owns Dementia By Day, a dementia care consulting and education company.

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