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Behavioral health

Dealing with dementia and other mental impairments

Everyone expects a little forgetfulness as they age. But if your parent has consistent short-term memory loss, confusion, trouble solving problems or noticeable personality changes, he or she may be suffering from dementia.

While Alzheimer’s disease is the most well-known form of dementia, memory issues can be caused by a number of other conditions. Some, like Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, can’t be reversed but can be treated to slow the progression. However, other conditions – including those caused by medication interactions, depression, hearing or vision problems, and low blood sugar – can usually be corrected with proper treatment. That’s why a medical evaluation and diagnosis from a primary care doctor is so important.

Once you have a proper diagnosis in hand, the doctor can prescribe the appropriate treatment including medications or occupational therapy.

Enlisting a mental health professional

If your parent is experiencing depression or other behavioral health issues, meeting with a licensed mental health professional may be beneficial. A primary care doctor can provide recommendations and referrals to different types of professionals depending on the severity of your parent’s condition, including a psychiatrist, psychologist, licensed clinical social worker or therapist.

Only a psychiatrist can prescribe medication, while psychologists, social workers and therapists help counsel people as they work through personal issues. Not all psychologists, social workers and therapists accept insurance, so be sure you understand what the out-of-pocket costs will be before making an appointment.