Having a good relationship with your doctor is critical to optimal health care. And when a loved one is aging and/or has cognitive impairments, it is equally important for both families and patients to maintain good communication and ask the right questions, so the entire health care team can provide the best possible care.

When putting together a treatment plan, it is beneficial to take into consideration the patient’s age and overall health, the severity of symptoms, long- and short-term treatment goals, living situation, and the availability of family members and others to participate in the patient’s day to day care.

Here are some questions to ask your loved one’s doctor when formulating a care and treatment plan.

• What treatment options are available?

• What treatment options are recommended for this patient?

• If medication is recommended, which symptoms will be targeted by each medication?

• Does the medication come in a form that is easy to take for the patient?

• How long will it take to see the effects of the medication?

• What are possible side effects of the medication and when will they become apparent?

• When should we call you if the patient is experiencing side effects?

• Is one treatment option more likely than another to interfere with the medications for other conditions?

• What are the concerns with stopping one medication and beginning another?

• How and when will the effectiveness of each treatment be measured?

• At what stage would you consider it appropriate to stop using the medication and consider a new course of treatment?

Families who work together with doctors often find that the best care comes from a collaborative effort. Small changes in mood, behavior and cognition are often easier to spot from someone who is close to the patient and is alert to subtle personality shifts. Working with doctors and understanding the options, benefits and risks of different treatments helps families stay on top of their loved one’s care and ensures that all caregivers can successfully evaluate and manage the unique needs of each patient.