Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, creates challenges for an individual’s memory, thinking skills and behavior. While the symptoms typically develop slowly and become worse over time, the Alzheimer’s Association says the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is important.
The symptoms of Alzheimer’s vary from person to person, and while during the early stage, an individual may still be able to drive, work and participate in daily activities, he or she may notice some cognitive changes. Those changes result in problems that include, but are not limited to, difficulty in identifying the right word or name, remembering names when introduced to new people, completing tasks at work or in a social setting and planning and organizing routine activities. Sufferers also may forget information soon after reading it and lose or misplace objects.
Here are some of the reasons why the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is important:
- Symptoms May Be Associated with Another Condition. An individual may show signs of Alzheimer’s disease, but be suffering from a different illness. The Alzheimer’s Association reports that 9 percent of people with dementia-related symptoms have a separate condition, such as general depression, vitamin deficiencies or alcohol abuse. To obtain the correct diagnosis, it is especially important to first consult with your primary care physician.
- Better Chance of Benefiting from Treatment. While certain causes of cognitive decline are not reversible, they may be treatable, giving those living with Alzheimer’s more independence. Appropriate treatment can slow the rate of decline and is typically most effective when administered in the early phase of the disease. In addition, there is more time to research treatments that may provide some relief of the symptoms. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institute on Aging, several medications are available for the mild and moderate stages of Alzheimer’s, while treatment options for the advanced stages are more limited.
- Lessened Anxiety about Current Challenges. An early diagnosis gives the individual with Alzheimer’s and their caregiver more opportunity to learn about the disease and develop realistic expectations, which can reduce anxiety. Early detection can also help reduce feelings of guilt on the part of the caregiver or family during the advanced stage of the disease. Simply knowing that early treatment is available can be a stress-reliever for all those involved.
- Gaining More Time to Plan. An early diagnosis gives the person with Alzheimer’s, and their family, time to prepare. Decisions can be made on caregiving, transportation, living options, financial and legal matters and long-term planning. By preparing early, people living with this disease can create a plan that benefits their quality of life and helps them get ready for the future. Also, the caregiver or family is better prepared to provide support when this plan is being developed.