Importance of Alzheimer’s Early Diagnosis

by Eric Corum

With a disease that currently has no cure like Alzheimer’s, there is a debate about whether a person should seek out an early diagnosis. The misconception revolves around the idea that whether one is confirmed to have Alzheimer’s disease, at any stage, the end result is the same. However, this is incorrect because it discounts all the benefits of an early diagnosis. Let’s try and dig into why this misconception came to life and understand how an early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can make a huge difference in the lives of the diagnosed senior as well as their loved ones.

Early Diagnosis

One of the principle arguments against an early diagnosis is that since there are no medications that reverse or cure Alzheimer’s disease, an early diagnosis only leads to despair for the person diagnosed and their loved ones. Currently, the FDA has approved several medications that focus on maintaining a person’s functioning capabilities by delaying the progression of the disease. This allows a person with Alzheimer’s disease to live a life as normal as possible, but does not reverse the disease.

When a person is diagnosed early, early treatment leads to slowing down the symptoms and helping the individual maintain their independence and memory for as long as possible.

 

alzheimer early symptomsClick for full size infographic

Treatments Work Best Early On

Most treatments are typically the most effective for those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Even for patients willing to participate in clinical trials, many only take those who are in the earlier stages of the disease. Therefore there are more opportunities to choose from, when a patient is given an early diagnosis. Other than medical trials, there are treatments that have been approved by the FDA. Although these medications have varying degrees of efficacy, the people who are helped by their treatment are thankful they received their diagnosis early.

Early Alzheimer’s Diagnosis Can Be Stress Relieving

The diagnosis itself can counterintuitively relieve stress. As we know Alzheimer’s disease causes many troubling symptoms such as memory loss and drastic mood changes. These symptoms are disruptive. Not knowing the root cause can be extremely stressful. Therefore, once a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the clarity eliminates the stress caused by the unknown.

The person affected by the disease, along with their family, can move away from trying to find the cause of the symptoms, and move toward preparing for the journey ahead. This gives the person with Alzheimer’s disease, and their caregivers, more time to prepare. Those affected by Alzheimer’s require a tremendous amount of attention, support and care. Because the disease affects so many areas of life, one must devise a plan of care for things such as living and care options and financial considerations and legal matters. By obtaining an early diagnosis a family can proactively seek out all the opportunities available which can lead to higher quality decisions and a smoother process.

Another important benefit of an early diagnosis is the time it gives the person affected to take proactive measures to maintain a sense of identity. For instance, gathering tangible memories in the form of precious photos, videos, and letters can extend long-term memory recall by providing mental cues. This is particularly important as the disease progresses. Recording these memories can help provide a semblance of identity and a great reminder of positive emotions. 

Alzheimer’s is sadly a difficult disease to deal with. However, with an early diagnosis and good preparation, one can maintain their independence longer.

10 signs of early Alzheimer’s

  1. Memory loss that disrupts 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 relationships
  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. Mood & Personality Changes:

People affected by Alzheimer’s become  very easily confused, depressed, suspicious or anxious. Even in the comfort of their own home they can get upset. These symptoms happen in common place such as on the work place during the time spent with friends but also in other places that are out of their comfort zone.

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