Since there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease at this time, many people with some memory issues use that as an excuse to avoid seeing a diagnostician. They really don’t want to hear what they fear will be a diagnosis of AD. Given the stigma that still accompanies many brain diseases, that’s understandable. However, a new study has shown that early detection and treatment can be beneficial by curtailing symptoms, or at least managing them more efficiently.
Researchers for this study, conducted at the University of Eastern Finland, followed the progression of the disease in their participants over a three year period. The subjects of the study had been diagnosed either at the very mild or the mild level of Alzheimer’s and were treated with standard methods.
According to Psychologist Ilona Hallikainen and Adjunct Professor and Psychologist Tuomo HÃ¤nninen, the results concluded that early detection of the disease does make a difference in symptoms later on.
The study concluded that early diagnosis provided valuable time for targeted therapy to help people better manage their everyday activities than those who were diagnosed at a more advanced phase of the disease. Additionally, the study found that in relation to the stage of the disease, the people who were diagnosed early also showed fewer psychological and behavioral symptoms at the end of the study.
Reasons for seeking an earlier diagnosis
Articles and television specials on Alzheimer’s are common these days as it becomes more evident that unless a cure for the disease is found soon, a huge portion of our aging population will be affected. Alzheimer’s disease, unchecked, will cause untold human and financial misery worldwide. The downside of all of the publicity is that nearly anyone over 50 who has a brief memory lapse may wonder if he or she is developing Alzheimer’s disease.
What at one time would have just seemed normal brain-lock, because someone is very busy, now is suspect. We are inundated with untold numbers of studies, books and articles on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias that involve memory loss. It’s hard to watch the news or check the Web without seeing a reference.
However, there are times to be concerned. If I lock my keys in the car, I will be upset with my preoccupied mind and then figure out how to retrieve them. But if I put them in the refrigerator, I may need to think about why. Did I do it because I had my hands full and they were snagged on a grocery item I was putting away? Or did I put them in there because that seemed, at the moment, like the proper place to put them?
All of us will forget something from time to time. Most of us will be frustrated when we do. It’s normal for our information retrieval times to lengthen as our brains sort through decades of information. However, when our own personal world makes no sense - our home, our neighborhood, our community - we have a reason to worry.
It’s possible that even if we have problems with memory or confusion we may not have dementia. We may be taking a medication that is fogging up our memory or we may have a hidden infection somewhere in our system. Whatever the reason, if we are concerned, we need to find out what the problem is.
Even if Alzheimer’s disease is the diagnosis we receive, there are drugs that, if started early enough, can slow the cognitive decline for some people. With this new knowledge that early detection and treatment by doctors and therapists may help people live more satisfying lives by curtailing or slowing some of the most devastating symptoms, we have an even more pressing reason to see a doctor about our memory lapses or confusion.
As a society, we must work hard to eliminate the social stigma of dementia and other illnesses affecting the brain. By doing so, more people may be willing to seek an early diagnosis, thus buying a little quality time in their lives or maybe even avoiding some symptoms.
ScienceDaily. (2013, July 18) Early Detection and Treatment of Alzheimer’s Disease Prevents Psychological and Behavioural Symptoms. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130718100931.htm?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+sciencedaily%2Fmind_brain%2Falzheimers+%28ScienceDaily%3A+Mind+%26+Brain+News±-+Alzheimer%27s%29
Beck, M. (2008, November 11) You Must Remember This: Forgetting Has Its Benefits. Wall Street Journal. Retrieved from http://online.wsj.com/article_email/SB122635803060015415-lMyQjAxMDI4MjE2MTMxNTE4Wj.html
Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran family caregiver who spent more than two decades caring for a total of seven elders. She is a newspaper columnist and the author of Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. Bradley Bursack is also a contributor to several books on caregiving and dementia, and is passionate about preserving the dignity of elders. Her website is www.mindingourelders.com. Follow Carol on Twitter @mindingourelder and on Facebook at Minding Our Elders.