Dementia Care: Your doctor doesn’t know everything


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Today’s topic is all about doctors…

I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to who tell me something about what their doctor told them about dementia. So they say like, oh, you know I brought my loved one with dementia to the doctor, their regular physician, and they tell me something that the doctor tells them, and I’m thinking, why would the doctor say this? Because sometimes it’s totally wrong.

A great example is what I encountered recently. I had somebody tell me that they went to the doctor and she asked the doctor how long her father had to live with dementia. This doctor gave her the wrong stage diagnosis. They said, oh yeah, your dad’s probably got, you know, stage five or six dementia. I don’t think that is what he has at all!

And that he probably has like a year left. What, okay, if you are a doctor, you’re not a magician, you didn’t invent the earth. How can you possibly come up with an accurate number for how long this person has to live? If you are a doctor and you’re giving somebody that kind of information, I think you’re way out of line. There is no way that you can possibly know how long someone has to live. I think it’s totally irresponsible. The other thing that this doctor told this poor lady was that her father would probably forget her by March. It’s January. How would someone know that? Also, not only is that really totally out of line and totally insane, but they phrased it the wrong way. It’s not that your loved one forgets who you are, it’s that they can’t place you on a timeline.

So he may have trouble recognizing who she is in relation to what year this man thinks it is, but he’s not going to forget who his daughter is. So, not only has this doctor given this poor woman a whole lot of misinformation, but also what right does this doctor have to say this kind of stuff? I don’t think this doctor really knows what they’re talking about. So here’s what I’m telling you. The doctor – your doctor that you’re going to (unless this person is a geriatrician or a neurologist) – probably doesn’t have enough information about dementia in their arsenal to be able to give you the answers that you need. So that’s my little quick rant on these doctors. They don’t know everything. That’s it.

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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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