When you suspect a parent has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, you may fear having your worries confirmed by a doctor’s diagnosis. However, getting care early when a person shows memory loss and other symptoms can sometimes help preserve brain function and slow the progress of the disease.

Take these steps if you worry that your family member has developed dementia.

Talk with your loved one

This conversation will likely be difficult, but necessary. Find a quiet, private place to talk to your parent about the changes you have noticed. Choose a time when he or she seems lucid and express that you would like to talk to a doctor about forgetfulness and other symptoms. If your family member resists this dialogue, take a break and wait for another day. The earlier you have this conversation, the more likely that your loved one will have the ability to understand your concerns. Offer your support and agree to take them to see the doctor.

Talk to your family member’s doctor

If your parent will not make a doctor’s appointment, talk to the doctor yourself. Express your concerns and ask the office to contact your family member to schedule a visit or to bring up the issue on a subsequent visit. You may also want to ask other family members for help. They may have noticed the same symptoms and have the same concerns as you.

A thorough understanding of a person’s cognitive problems can help him or her maintain independence as long as possible. Serve as an advocate to help your parent get medical care for dementia and related issues.  It may also be helpful to make sure that your parent has a Durable Financial Power of Attorney as well as a Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will; so that, if you are the named Agent, you can assist him or her if your parent becomes unable to make financial or medical decisions.