Forgetful Mate Has Her Worried

Q: My husband has become increasingly forgetful over the past few months, and I'm scared this might be a serious health issue. Last week he couldn't remember how to get home from the grocery store. As much as I'm afraid of what the future holds, I know he needs medical attention. He is reluctant to see his doctor and I can't force him to go, but I fear it's getting to a point where he may be a danger to himself or others. How do I gently convince him to take action? — Georgia, 67

Dr. Susan: Isn't he due for a cholesterol or prostate blood test, or a flu shot? That would be the easiest way to get him to be seen, though a doctor wouldn't be able to assess a cognitive impairment so quickly. A medical professional will want to rule out thyroid problems, a vitamin B12 deficiency, and depression, as all these may impact memory. Perhaps you could keep a record of incidents that have you worried and then make an appointment to discuss it with his doctor yourself. The doctor will likely have run into situations like this before and may be able to help you get your husband into the office.

Mild cognitive impairment, while widespread in the aging population, doesn't always lead to full-blown dementia. Getting turned around directionally is a warning sign, though, so you're right to be concerned. While there isn't yet a perfect pill to prevent such impairment from progressing, certain strategies and lifestyle interventions can help. If he can learn to use a GPS, that can help with the direction problem. (Or he may have to give up driving alone, or altogether, which is bound to be a battle all its own.) Thus early diagnosis is a good idea.

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