Dementia Symptoms: Which Doctor Should You Talk To?

June 12, 2024
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Bre'anna Wilson
June 10, 2024
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Are you concerned about changes in memory, thinking skills, mood, or personality? Are you seeking answers or even a diagnosis? Let's discuss who you should be talking to.

Primary Care Physician (PCP)

When you first notice dementia-like symptoms, your journey should always start with a visit to your primary care physician (PCP). This is where you will state all your concerns and symptoms.

Make sure to write down all symptoms you have noticed. Having a list ready helps provide a clear picture to your physician. Consider making a copy of the list to leave with your physician.

A good primary care physician will follow up with screenings, tests, assessments, order scans, and run labs. Essentially, they will perform a rule-out process to determine what may be happening. If necessary, your PCP may refer you to a specialist for further evaluation.


Geriatricians are medical doctors who specialize in the comprehensive care of older adults. They can also serve as primary care physicians for older patients, especially those over the age of 65 or those with complex medical histories.

When to Consider a Geriatrician:

  • Age Factor: The person is over the age of 65.
  • Complex Medical History: The person has multiple chronic conditions like hypertension, high cholesterol, or diabetes.
  • The individual takes several medications: Because geriatricians are medical doctors, they can also prescribe medications.


Gerontologists are often confused with geriatricians, but their roles are quite different. While geriatricians focus on the medical aspects, gerontologists focus on the social, psychological, and cultural aspects of aging. They provide insights into improving the quality of life and well-being of older adults. Most gerontologists are not medical doctors. They usually cannot diagnose or prescribe medications.

When to See a Gerontologist

  • Holistic Approach: Seeking a more comprehensive, non-medical care approach.
  • Priority on social and cultural aspects of aging.


Neurologists are specialized medical doctors who focus on disorders related to the brain and spinal cord. They can perform neurological evaluations, order imaging tests like MRIs and CT scans, and sometimes make definitive diagnoses.

Signs That Warrant a Neurologist:

  • Cognitive and Physical Manifestations: Headaches, weakness, tremors, altered gait, balance issues, coordination problems, and motor planning issues.
  • History of stroke.

Because neurologists are medical doctors, they can prescribe medications and differentiate between different types of dementias.


Unlike neurologists, neuropsychologists typically hold a PhD or PsyD. They focus on how the brain impacts cognition, emotion, and behavior.

What Neuropsychologists Evaluate:

  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Problem-solving
  • Language skills
  • Processing speed
  • Visual-spatial functions

They also address emotional and behavioral challenges. Note that, while they do not prescribe medications, they work closely with medical doctors who do.


In my opinion, if you or the person you are concerned about is experiencing cognitive challenges, changes in physical abilities, mood, or behavior, it is best to consult at least the following specialists:

Comprehensive Evaluation Team:

  • Primary Care Physician
  • Neurologist
  • Neuropsychologist

It's crucial to determine the actual issue so proper treatment can be administered. Not everything that looks like dementia is dementia.

When you visit these doctors, don't be afraid to ask questions. Be persistent and advocate for yourself or your loved one. Remember, your health journey is important, and seeking the right medical attention is crucial for the best outcomes.

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