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If someone you care for is diagnosed with dementia, they’ll probably be treated by a range of medical and healthcare professionals. These can include:

  • their doctor
  • medical specialists
  • allied health professionals, like physiotherapists, occupational therapists or podiatrists
  • community nurses
  • social workers.

By working with your loved one’s medical team, you can make sure they get the health care, support and advice they need.

Finding the right doctor

Ideally, you, your friend or family member, and their doctor will work together as a team to make sure your loved one gets the best possible care. Because of this, it’s worth spending time getting to know the doctor and building a strong relationship with them.

A good doctor:

  • provides advice and support
  • listens to you and your loved one, and your opinions
  • explains things in language you can understand
  • gives you time to speak
  • takes time to answer your questions
  • helps you and your loved one feel comfortable.

Many doctors speak languages other than English and understand different cultures. If you think the person living with dementia would prefer to get information in another language, your current doctor might be able to suggest someone else.

If you or your loved one aren’t getting the support and information you need, it’s okay to find a new doctor. It may take some time, but finding a doctor who meets your needs can make a big difference.

Working with the doctor

Your loved one’s doctor can be involved in their care in a number of ways:

  • Providing medical support, from diagnosis to ongoing management and care.
  • Providing referrals to medical specialists and health professionals, which helps you to build a healthcare team. You can ask for a referral to a specialist at any time.
  • Encouraging them to plan for their future medical care, including choosing someone to make medical decisions.

Doctors can’t talk about patients without their consent. This means that if your loved one tells the doctor that they can’t give you any information, they need to follow this request.

You can share information about your friend or family member with their doctor, however. Discussing changes in memory or behaviour can be upsetting for the person with dementia, so you might want to make a separate appointment or find a way to provide the information discreetly. Talk to the clinic about the best way to do this.

Making the most of an appointment

If your friend or family member is happy for you to join them, it can be helpful to go to their appointments. You can listen, take notes and help to support them.

Here are some things you can do to make the most of the appointment:

  • Book the appointment at a time of day that’s best for your loved one.
  • Book a long appointment, so there’s time to discuss things in detail.
  • Write down the person’s medications, vitamins and supplements.
  • Record any changes you’ve noticed in their memory, mood, thinking and behaviour.
  • Write a list of questions that you and your loved one want to ask the doctor.

During the appointment:

  • Put the person with dementia first. Encourage them to talk about their needs and wants.
  • Ask the doctor to explain information in a different way, if your loved one doesn’t understand what they’re saying.
  • Write down notes about your conversation, including who you spoke to, when you spoke to them, and what was discussed. It can be helpful to have a dedicated notebook or folder for health appointments and information.
  • Ask for printouts of relevant information, including medical conditions, medications, services and supports. This means you can review the information at home.

It’s okay to take care of your own health and happiness. If you're struggling as someone who cares for a person with dementia, contact the free, confidential National Dementia Helpline on 1800 100 500, any time of the day or night, for information, advice and support.

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Last updated
5 February 2024