Early Alzheimer's Diagnosis Beneficial for Patients, Caregivers

Early Alzheimer's disease detection and diagnosis is the theme of this years’ “Let’s Face It” campaign waged by the Alzheimer Society of Canada. January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month in Canada and internationally, Alzheimer’s organizations are urging people to diagnose early.

Although diagnosis in an early or asymptomatic stage is a challenge, researchers are looking at biomarkers to diagnose early, before the disease has a chance to affect the brain. And while there is still no known cure for Alzheimer's disease, experts assert that early detection is helpful in many ways.
  • Helps reduce anxiety on the part of the affected person and his or her family about the cause of symptoms
  • Allows for the person with the disease to partake in planning for the future
  • Allows physicians and caregivers to be aware of patients who may have difficulty managing their own health care, such as when and how to take other prescription medications
  • Allows potential management of symptoms with medication or other interventions that maintain the best possible level of health and functioning for the person with the disease
  • Allows for coordination of primary and specialty care which may help prevent prescription of medications for coexisting conditions that worsen cognitive function
  • Aids the management of possible behavioral symptoms for the benefit of both the person with the disease and their caregiver
  • Allows caregivers and family members to access training, education and support services to help them with caregiver tasks and reduce negative effects of caregiving, such as stress and depression
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the following are 10 signs & symptoms of early Alzheimer’s and may signal the need to seek medical attention:
  1. Memory changes that disrupt daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
  4. Confusion with time or place.
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationship
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing.
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgment.
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities.
  10. Changes in mood and personality.
Of course, skeptics question the value of early detection and wonder if it is just an opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to target a new group of customers. Also, they raise concern about the stigma associated with the disease. However, because of other chronic medical conditions associated with the disease such as diabetes and vascular disorders (hypertension), many physicians urge screening and tout the many benefits of early detection.

Early detection also affords the ability to put one’s financial house in order. It would be prudent to understand the ways to pay for senior care if you are facing many years of care as a result of living with memory loss.

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