While some people may be reluctant or afraid to have a full medical evaluation for possible dementia, the benefits to an early diagnosis far outweigh the fears. In fact, an early accurate diagnosis may be a relief for the individual and family to know – including a possible treatable or reversible condition.
Once a family is equipped with the knowledge, it can mean access to essential services, relevant information and support, as well as providing them an opportunity to plan for the future and to adjust living well with dementia.
Cost saving. Studies show that earlier diagnosis enables the patient to live independently longer and make the most of their abilities that enhance their quality of life. Delaying or avoiding early or unnecessary admission to a care home or hospital can save thousands of dollars.
Treatment and research. Treatments for Alzheimer’s and other dementias are most effective when started early in the disease progression – both drug and non-drug treatments – as research leads to more options. And getting an accurate diagnosis is more easily obtained while the person is still able to answer questions and recall the order in which symptoms appeared.
Those diagnosed early can take advantage of clinical trials or advocate for more research and improved care and opportunities.
Education and care. The early-diagnosed individual is better empowered to plan for the future while they’re still able to make important decisions regarding legal and financial matters as well as their care and support needs.
An early diagnosis gives families more opportunities to learn about the disease and develop realistic expectations as they plan together for the future. It enables families to gather practical information, advice and guidance as they face new challenges. This education alone can reduce stress by lessening the feelings of burden and regret.
Early diagnosis allows the person and family to attribute cognitive changes to the disease rather than to personal failings — preserving the person’s dignity throughout the disease process and enabling the patient to feel they are still viable and valuable.
Prioritize time. In addition, the person is better able to prioritize how they spend their time and focus on what matters most to them. They can take advantage of early-stage support groups, for example, to learn how to better manage and cope with symptoms. Support groups are also an important social component for both the diagnosed and caregiver.
Overall, early diagnosis can result in a higher quality of life, less stress for family care partners, more time to treasure the present and increased time for future planning.
For more information about support groups, social and educational programs for both the diagnosed and caregiver, contact Alzheimers Coachella Valley (ACV) at (760) 776.3100, or visit online at www.cvalzheimers.org.