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Be Proactive for Awareness of Alzheimer’s

Due to the amazing growth of Boomers and number of patients with Alzheimer’s (AD), it has become even more important for both the medical professionals and families to be aware of the need for screening for this debilitating disease.

Some barriers, which may cause a delay in addressing symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s, include fear of getting involved, denial and avoidance of an unknown diagnosis, and simple lack of public awareness.

Doing the Numbers on Alzheimer’s

Over ninety percent of identified Alzheimer’s Disease patients are age 65 and older with late-onset AD. From that age, the risk doubles every five years.

One in eight are diagnosed at age 65 and it progresses to 1 in 2 at age 85!

In addition, the 85+ age group is the fastest growing – making the need to be proactive quite evident.

The others are early-onset patients, often genetic (meaning that 50% of their offspring will get it).

Symptoms surfaced any time from the 40s to the 60s, although it was present before it was medically recognized.

Reasons Seniors See a Doctor for Screening or Diagnosis

  • To receive proper treatment and medications
  • Safety (medicines, driving, and diet) issues
  • Family member observing something different
  • Patient repeating the same story over and over
  • Less often, one spouse brings the other in (but often the spouse gets used to changes little by little, thus not realizing how much memory issues have worsened)
  • Sometimes patient comes on his or her own self-awareness of cognitive changes
  • In response to a crisis

Yearly screening from age 65 on can be helpful in detecting changes in functioning.

Sometimes a patient is asked to remember three words, draw a clock, etc. in screening.

Seeing a medical professional can get a patient on the way to defining and addressing the problems along with researching the reasons via a proper diagnosis.

Medical professionals can address concerns of safety, finances, therapy, treatment, medications, and caregivers.

Why Older Adults with Alzheimer’s May Need Treatment

As mentioned above, the main reason is safety, of themselves and others in society (accidentally starting fires, driving hazards, etc.)

Everyday life activities involving cooking, use of tools, problems with finances, getting lost are issues, which need attention.

Even delusions and hallucinations may occur later. Treatment offers an opportunity to save thousands by delaying nursing home placement.

Early diagnosis allows for more effective treatment in order to slow the progression, stay connected to the family longer, improve or stabilize behavior which is the main reason for referral to nursing homes, and give more relief to symptoms.

Such early diagnosis and treatment also provide time to plan for the future. The sooner problems are addressed, the better off the patient and the family will be.

Differences Between Alzheimer’s and Normal Aging

Normal seniors may have memory issues. For AD patients, their issues involve problem-solving, executive functioning, judgment, and words that just don’t come.

For normal older adults, a word may not come at first, but then it appears “from the tip of the tongue” whereas Alzheimer’s patients never find the proper word, especially names.

Another litmus test is that normal people may have a memory problem (due to normal aging, chemo, stroke, etc.), which stays static or shows some improvement, whereas Alzheimer’s patients become progressively worse.

Need for Research in Field of Memory and Alzheimer’s

There is a vital need for further research, both for treatment options and prevention.

As the at-risk population will rise sharply in the next few years, some are opting to participate in clinical research studies.

To do so, they must have a caregiver and informed permission from both patient and caregiver. Such research may be crucial to the increasing numbers of older adults.

Today is a good day to consider the Biblical wisdom to “Honor your mother and father” by acting on your own doubts and/or concerns out of your love for them.

Instead of a parent, it may be a spouse, friend, or neighbor who needs your input to help them seek regular screening or medical help for memory and other related issues.

Since we often spend time with family members more on the holidays, that’s a fine time to observe whether more attention may be needed.

During the testing phase and after, go to Papa and discover how much help a spare college student can be for companionship, errands, or tasks around the house.

It’s never too late to be proactive about cognitive loss such as Alzheimer’s.

The Papa Team Walking to fight Alzheimer's Disease