No aging adult wants other people pointing out times when their cognition slides.
Misplacing items, forgetting names, repeating stories…it’s all commonly part of the aging process and many older adults get embarrassed by it. In order to preserve their pride, they try to brush these slip-ups aside and in the end there is no harm and no foul.
On the other hand, there are times when these cognitive slip-ups result from much more than just the aging process.
Occasionally, these are early signs of Alzheimer’s disease or some form of dementia. Again, the slip-ups are brushed aside to avoid embarrassment. Unfortunately, these symptoms get dismissed and early identification of Alzheimer’s disease is lost.
So, what is the big deal? So what if an individual doesn’t get diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease as early as they should?
The Alzheimer’s association has identified 10 early signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s which includes confusion with time or place, memory loss, difficulty with solving problems, and misplacing things.
They emphasize that the symptoms all have something in common: they cause a major disruption to function and to daily life.
Alzheimer’s disease (not including early-onset Alzheimer’s) typically effects adults 65 years and older. Being familiar with the early signs and symptoms leads to early diagnosis.
Here are some of the benefits of obtaining and early diagnosis:
Getting a more accurate diagnosis.
Obtaining an early diagnosis gives your specialists more time to properly diagnose you. There are several sub-types of dementia, all of which require a variety of prescriptive and rehabilitative approaches.
Treating reversible symptoms.
In rare cases, there are some Alzheimer’s-like conditions that can be reversed if identified early enough. This includes encephalopathic conditions in which liquid and inflammation builds up around the brain tissue. Visit the NIH Neurological Institute information page regarding normal pressure hydrocephalus.
Early rehabilitation treatment.
This includes getting access to physical, occupational, and speech therapy treatment in your home and in healthcare settings. Such professionals can assist you with maintaining your level of independence in tasks that mean the most to you for as long as possible.
Rehabilitative specialists can also work with family members and caregivers, providing education on how to facilitate your independence and what to expect as the disease changes over time.
Having control in planning your living situation.
Early identification means having the cognitive capacity to decide what your one living situation will look like as the disease progresses.
Options include living at home with family, applying for assistive living, deciding hospice care and advanced directives if and when the time comes.
Preparing your family for what’s to come.
Alzheimer’s disease obviously impacts the affected individual, but the functional loss that comes with the disease directly impacts relevant family members and caregivers.
This involves spouses, siblings, and other family members completely transforming their relationship to the role of caregiver. Early identification helps better prepare them for how their roles will change in order to best care for you.