No matter how much you love your general practitioner, they’re probably not the best person to help you deal with your dementia or Alzheimer’s. These days, there’s a specialty for everything, and with all the research and new treatments around dementia and Alzheimer’s, it’s more important than ever for you to make sure you get a doctor who keeps up to date on all the breaking news in that particular section of the medical industry.
Your general practitioner may be a great place to start, but remember they’re just that: general, meaning they really don’t know much about your particular situation. Your GP might recommend a specialist they know, but if they don’t, you’re on your own. So where do you begin? How can you tell which doctor you should turn to in order to help you deal with your dementia or Alzheimer’s?
We’ve come up with a list of a few common types of doctors who might be able to help, along with their qualifications and how to determine which one is right for you.
Geriatric Nurse Practitioner (GNP)
A GNP is a registered nurse with a special focus on providing care to older adults. With illnesses such as dementia and Alzheimer’s becoming increasingly common in older adults, many GNPs are well-versed in the behavioral issues that tend to coincide with dementia and Alzheimer’s, as well as some of the best medications to help alleviate those symptoms. In order to become a geriatric nurse practitioner, one must complete a master’s degree in nursing and become certified by the American Nurse’s Credentialing Center.
A gerospychologist is a psychologist who specializes in the specific mental health challenges that are commonly faced by older adults, including dementia and Alzheimer’s. They are qualified to perform psychological testing and therapy that focuses on issues related to behavioral management of Alzheimer’s symptoms, as well as some of the issues that come with being a caregiver, coping, and grief and loss. The requirements for becoming a geropsychologist include getting a doctorate in psychology, followed by completion of an intensive internship, conducted under supervision, of working with older adults.
A geriatric psychiatrist is similar to a geropsychologist, with the biggest difference being that a geriatric psychiatrist is qualified to prescribe medications to help treat some of the cognitive and behavioral symptoms that tend to come along with dementia and Alzheimer’s. They need to complete a doctorate in medicine, followed by a residency in psychiatry that places an emphasis on working with older adults.
A neurologist is a doctor who specializes in diseases that are related to the nervous system, including Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and Parkinson’s. They need to have completed a doctorate in medicine, followed by a residency in neurology. Any given neurologist may or may not have experience working with older adults, so ask around and make sure you see one who specifically has experience with dementia and/or Alzheimer’s before you start seeing them as their patient.
As always, we want to be your resource as you navigate the various stages with aging parents. Please do not hesitate to contact us with questions.
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