By Dr. Marion Somers, Ph. D., Ask Dr. Marion

QUESTION: I come from a large family. My father, a widower, is showing some signs of dementia but he is refusing any assistance. He has become very suspicious of both family members and neighbors. He continues to drive his car which is of great concern to the family but there is no agreement on what the next step should be. Advice? J. Witmer in Iowa

ANSWER: The first thing to do about suspected dementia is to bring your father to his primary physician and all of his other doctors for an accurate diagnosis. Make sure you bring along all of the medications that he's taking to the appointment, including any over the counter medications and vitamins so you can be sure nothing is contra-indicated. Also have his eyes and hearing checked. If he is in danger to himself or others, the family must step up and take responsibility before there is a fatal disaster.

You also need to open up the lines of communication. It has to be done in clear, short sentences, and you have to give your father time to respond. Once you improve communication, you'll be better able to meet everyone's needs.

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