Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive and irreversible brain disease that slowly destroys cognitive skills and memory. The amyloid plaques and tangles that occur in brain tissue eventually prevent the patient from performing even the simplest of tasks.
Early diagnosis can affect the progression of the disease and the ability to prepare for future needs of the patient.
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The Importance of Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease
Early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is critical for a number of reasons. Some symptoms may be treatable, or even reversible, with early treatment. Early diagnosis also allows the most accurate assessment of the condition, when the individual is still able to answer questions and report symptoms. It also allows the individual the autonomy to participate in deciding options for treatment and other matters. Medications for Alzheimer’s disease are only effective in the early stages, so knowing the signs and starting treatment is critical for the patient’s care.
Why Early Diagnosis Is Important For Families
When families are aware of the condition of Alzheimer’s disease, they can report symptoms and progression more accurately so that the patient receives appropriate care. These families are then able to plan for the future and find the community resources they may require for care and support. They can help the patients choose options for treatment and the care team.
Why Early Diagnosis Is Important for Physicians
Early diagnosis allows physicians to prescribe medications that are known to be effective for improve Alzheimer’s disease when administered in the early stages of the disease. Early diagnosis also allows the physicians to identify other disorders that may be treatable. When Alzheimer’s is diagnosed early, the physician can better assess the abilities of patients to participate in their own care. It can also allow the patient to engage in decision-making to allow them more autonomy and dignity in their own healthcare decisions. Early diagnosis can also help the physician to make appropriate referrals to ensure the safety and appropriateness of care.
Recognizing the Early Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease
The Alzheimer’s Association provides a list of ten early signs of Alzheimer’s disease that families should be on alert for so that they can get medical care as soon as possible:
- Memory problems that disrupt normal life
- Difficulties planning activities or solving problems
- Difficulties performing familiar tasks at work or during leisure activities
- Confusion about time or place
- Difficulty understanding visual images or spatial relationships
- Problems with words in speaking or writing
- Misplacing items or inability to retrace one’s steps
- Poor decision-making about money or personal grooming tasks
- Withdrawal from work or normal social activities
- Unusual changes in mood or personality
Although a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is a serious life event, many studies show that patients appreciate an early diagnosis that allows the opportunity to make decisions about their own care and prepare for the future.