Q: “My mom went alone to a recent visit with her general doctor and received a life-changing diagnosis. Her doctor of many years told her that she is demonstrating signs associated with the early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease and started mom on a new medication. As I have done some internet research and have spoken to a few of my friends whose parents have dealt with the diagnosis, I do not feel that his diagnosis is correct for mom’s presenting symptoms. Is it wrong to question the doctor?” Judy from Lilburn, GA

A:  No. If you have doubts, fears, or questions – it is never wrong to request clarification from a physician. Physicians are merely people who make their best judgments about particular diagnoses based on their own education, training and experience – and opinions. Due to “human error,” there is always an unintentional potential for miscommunication, misunderstanding, and difference of opinion. (PS: it is perfectly normal to be emotionally affected by such a difficult diagnosis and completely normal to question the diagnosis when it does not “fit” with your current understanding of the condition.)

You may want, and it is your right, to receive a second opinion from another physician or specialist. You should not fear that you will offend mom’s physician in doing this. Good doctors want you to feel confident in their care. You might want to ask her physician’s office directly for a recommendation, reach out to the friends you mentioned that had experienced the diagnosis for their advice, or check with the local association dealing with the specific diagnosis for specialists in the field.  If you do decide to proceed with a second opinion, it can be helpful to ask for copies of pertinent medical records from the original appointment for the second physician to review. Second opinions can be useful for many reasons – possibly confirming a direction one is already heading, suggesting new treatment options or considerations, providing peace of mind, or just giving someone the opportunity to receive the input from another professional.

At any physician’s appointment, it is important to come “armed” with specific information and questions. It can also be helpful to bring items to take notes during appointments – or better yet, bring a significant other, a family member, or a patient advocate – such as a Geriatric Care Manager – to assist with listening, interpreting, and absorbing the information presented.

Best of luck,


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