Question: My mother, who will soon be 94, has dementia. Some doctors say she has Alzheimer’s but she has not been officially diagnosed. Mom experiences sundowners as well. She is on two of the Alzheimer’s medications, Aricept and Namenda. She also takes the Neurontin for the sundowners. My question is when should I ask the doctor about removing mom from the two Alzheimer’s drugs—or should I ask at all? The doctor tells me that she is in the last stages of Alzheimer’s. From what I have read, the two drugs are used to slow down the disease. But if she is in the final stage, what good are these doing her? Her quality of life is gone. Her days are spent sitting and napping in her wheelchair. Thank you.
Dr. Amy: Many people feel that it is not appropriate to ask doctors questions about the treatment they prescribe. They feel it shows a lack of respect for the doctor’s education and experience. I take a different view, and I encourage you to ask the doctor your questions about your mom's medication. As her advocate, it is important that you understand the medical care she is receiving and are comfortable with the doctor’s decisions. People who are engaged and take an active role in their treatment tend to get better results. Stories abound of people feeling that something wasn’t quite right but remaining silent—and later regretting that they hadn’t spoken up. I’m not suggesting this is the case with your mother, but a general principle is: when you don’t understand something, ask, ask, ask!
I also encourage you to write your questions down before you leave for the doctor’s office. I do this myself. It is so easy to forget!
I send you strength for the next part of your journey.
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