An early Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis has medical, emotional, and social benefits. In some cases, it can help rule out different conditions that may cause similar symptoms such as thyroid problems or normal pressure hydrocephalus. Even if it proves to be a definitive diagnosis, it gives you more control over your future and can reduce the costs of Alzheimer’s. According to Alzheimer’s Association, cost savings of as high as $7.9 trillion can be made from early diagnosis of the disease.
In this post, we will explore why it’s so important to see your doctor if you notice the first Alzheimer’s disease warning signs. We’ll also bring you up to date with what these warning signs are.
Let’s begin by taking a closer look at the benefits of an early Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis.
Gives You More Time to Inform Yourself About the Condition
Experiencing difficulties with your memory and not knowing what causes them can be unsettling. With an early diagnosis, you can understand them better and, by doing so, mitigate some of the mental upheaval caused by the condition.
There is a growing body of knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease out there, including advice for dealing with the symptoms and techniques for strengthening your cognitive abilities. An early diagnosis can give you years during which you can assimilate this information and use it to your advantage. The result can be a healthier life.
Enables You to Plan Things Ahead
An early diagnosis gives you more time to plan the things you want to do before the disease progresses. A person with early-stage Alzheimer’s can enjoy life to the fullest with minimal care. He or she can travel, engage in favorite activities, pursue passions or hobbies, write a book, and more.
An early diagnosis also enables you to discuss legal or financial decisions and define your care preferences. All these are important—they can help manage the stress and uncertainties that the progression of the condition may give rise to in the years to come.
Gives You Faster Access to Treatment
Current treatments cannot cure Alzheimer’s disease. But in the early stages of the condition, they can help alleviate symptoms, particularly memory loss and confusion. This applies to both medications and non-drug interventions such as physical or mental exercise.
Early treatment can slow cognitive decline, stabilize behavior, and help preserve independence, as shown by this study. It can enable you to continue living life to the fullest despite the difficulties that the condition raises.
Creates the Opportunity to Participate in More Clinical Trials
Every year, millions of dollars are invested in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s disease. The search for new and better treatments is underway at full speed. However, because of the progressive nature of the condition, it is mostly sufferers in the early stages of the disease that can benefit from clinical research.
You can learn more about the currently ongoing Alzheimer’s disease trials funded by the National Institute on Aging here.
Enables You to Make Important Lifestyle Changes
Certain lifestyle changes can help preserve cognitive function. Making these changes early on in the course of the disease can have a very positive impact on your life.
Notable lifestyle changes that may help a person diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s include:
Performing activities that improve cognitive function, such as playing games that stimulate the brai
Running, walking, and exercising
Measuring and controlling blood pressure
Avoiding foods and drinks that contribute to high blood sugar levels
Being socially active
Meditating to reduce stress
Reading for at least 30 minutes every day to keep the mind engaged and further lower stress
Makes Things Easier for Caregivers
The memory lapses and sometimes difficult behaviors associated with Alzheimer’s disease can test the patience of those around you. It may make them short-tempered for reasons that have nothing to do with your conscious choices.
An early diagnosis can help them understand that forgetfulness, mood changes, and certain behaviors are not intentional but the result of a serious medical condition.
At the same time, it can encourage caregivers and family members to familiarize themselves with the disease. This, in turn, may enable them to provide better support.
Early Alzheimer’s Diagnosis Helps Reduce Costs
Learning about the disease in its initial stages enables you to better adjust to it and plan ahead for the future. This can help reduce the high costs associated with institutionalization.
Because dementia may cause poor judgment, undiagnosed people may spend money unwisely and get into financial difficulties. An early diagnosis can help prevent this.
Managing and providing care for patients with the disease before the dementia stage can also result in massive cost savings. According to an Alzheimer’s Association study, early diagnosis could save up to $7.9 trillion.
Lowers Risks of Accidents
Like other dementias, Alzheimer’s may cause visual problems as well as difficulties with spatial orientation. These symptoms may increase the risk of motor vehicle accidents. An early diagnosis makes you aware of these potential symptoms and can increase your safety on and off the road.
Gives You the Opportunity to Preserve Memories
Yet another important benefit of an early diagnosis is the opportunity to preserve precious memories. Voice recordings, video, and writing can all help you tell your life story—or record the story of a dear one who suffers from the disease.
The process of remembering one’s life can be cathartic and empowering. It can rescue memories not only from Alzheimer’s but from the fog of time and preserve them for future generations.
More than an act of remembering, recording memories is a powerful way to preserve a person’s personality and their unique life experiences.
Early Alzheimer’s Disease Warning Signs
So far, we have looked at the benefits of an early diagnosis. Knowing the warning signs can make an early diagnosis so much easier, especially when you consider that self-assessment is an important part of accurately differentiating the condition from other dementias.
The following signs can catch the disease when it causes only mild cognitive impairment, before it progresses to dementia.
Experiencing memory problems that disrupt everyday life, such as forgetting the names of people, dates, or events.
Asking the same question over and over again.
Having difficulties concentrating and taking longer to perform mental tasks.
Having trouble managing household finances.
Experiencing difficulty completing familiar tasks like driving to a friend’s place.
Forgetting where you are and how you got there.
Not remembering the day of the week.
Having difficulties keeping one’s balance or judging distances accurately.
Having trouble reading.
Being unable to name familiar objects or stopping in the middle of a conversation not knowing how to continue.
Withdrawing from social activities and engagements.
Experiencing anxiety, confusion, suspicion, depression, and other mood and personality changes.
Because there is no simple test for diagnosing Alzheimer’s, it’s important to note the differences between the mild cognitive impairment that foreshadows the disease and age-related memory issues.
Keeping track of symptoms and asking family members or friends to tell you whether they have noticed anything unusual can lead to an accurate diagnosis faster.
An early Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis can make the condition easier to manage in its first stages. It allows for better planning ahead, more treatment options, greater understanding from caregivers and, ultimately, a richer life. It also enables the creation of provisions for the future, including the recording of memories.
Through all of this, it can make a person with Alzheimer’s disease feel that they are in control of their life and ready for the challenges that lie ahead of them.
In the end, learning that you or someone dear to you has Alzheimer’s doesn’t have to be a deep descent into silence—it can be valuable knowledge that you can use to gain more from life.