Fewer than 35 percent of people with Alzheimer's disease or other dementias have a diagnosis of the condition in their medical records. While there is currently no cure for Alzheimer's, a fatal brain disease that gets worse over time and causes changes in memory, thinking and reasoning, early detection and diagnosis is critical to ensuring the more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer's have the power to plan their own health care and future.
"Memory loss that disrupts everyday life such as forgetting recently learned information to the point of asking for the same information over and over or relying on memory aides is not a typical part of aging. It may be a sign of Alzheimer's disease," said Kathy Tuckey, program director at the Georgia Chapter Alzheimer's Association. "By getting diagnosed late in the progression of the disease, opportunities are being missed to make key decisions about treatment, care and future planning. Being diagnosed early is vital to receiving the best help and care possible."
There are many physical, emotional and social benefits of early detection, diagnosis and intervention for people with Alzheimer's and their caregivers. People who receive an early diagnosis of Alzheimer's are empowered to:
Participate in decisions about treatment and care.
Access community resources through the Alzheimer's Association or other organizations to find information and support.
Plan for future care options, including identifying social and community resources to support independence as long as possible.
Seek prescribed medication that can provide some relief.
Participate in Alzheimer's clinical studies to take greater control of their health care and benefit future generations.
Family members and friends of people diagnosed with Alzheimer's are empowered to:
Plan for the future
Learn the signs to watch for and how treatment can help.
Identify ways to adapt activities to promote existing skills and interests of loved ones with dementia.
Discover how to care for someone with Alzheimer's as they progress.
Learn strategies for talking to physicians.
Reduce stress by connecting with the Alzheimer's Association and other community resources.
Find resources to help assist with the daily tasks that become challenging and time-consuming during long-term caregiving.
The public recognizes the urgency of early detection of Alzheimer's disease. In 2008, Early Detection Matters was selected as the winner in the American Express Members Project competition.
With the help of the $1.5 million award from American Express, the Alzheimer's Association is implementing a national education campaign. The Know the 10 Signs: Early Detection Matters campaign will promote public understanding of the disease, increase awareness of the benefits of Alzheimer's early detection and increase the number of people talking to their doctors about warning signs.
For more information on the benefits of early detection of Alzheimer's disease, visit the Alzheimer's Association at www.alz.org/10signs or call the toll-free line at (800) 272-3900.