November is National Alzheimer?s Disease Awareness Month. Today, over 5.4 million individuals are diagnosed with the disease, and millions more are their caregivers. Awareness, early detection and treatment are key components in battling this disease.
Getting an Early Diagnosis
No two people experience the disease the same way and no single test can show whether a person has the disease. The physician completes a thorough assessment including the following:
- a medical history including recent illnesses, infections and medications
- tests to determine mental status
- a thorough physical examination
- brain imaging testing
- neurological examination
- blood tests
The Alzheimer?s Association identifies 10 key warning signs:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Difficulty with planning or solving problems
- Decreased ability to complete tasks that are familiar
- Confusion to time or place
- Trouble with visual images or spatial relations
- New problems with words when talking or writing
- Misplacing things and having difficulty with retracing steps
- Decrease with judgment
- Withdrawing from work or social activities
- Changes in mood or personality
Individuals may experience one or more of these warning signs in varying degrees. People who notice these warning signs in themselves or their loved ones should contact their doctor for an assessment.
Early Detection and its Importance
Early detection is important because it allows the individual to explore treatment options like clinical drug trials, plan for the future, and find support services for the individual and family. It allows the individual to make important decisions about future financial and legal matters before the disease progresses. Early detection also helps to lessen the anxiety of the unknown.
Impact on the Caregiver
The Alzheimer?s Association estimates that nearly 15 million caregivers provided over 17 billion hours of unpaid care to a loved one suffering from this disease. Family members report high levels of stress, physical and emotional fatigue, as well as depression.
There are resources available in the community to assist with care including the following:
- Adult Day Care
- Assisted Living Facilities
- Respite Programs
- Skilled Nursing Centers
To learn more about the disease as well as community resources visit The Alzheimer’s Associations website. To learn more about the Specialized Alzheimer?s Program at Allied Services Skilled Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, click here.