Early Diagnosis Is Key.
There are important advantages to obtaining an early and accurate diagnosis when cognitive symptoms are first noticed.
- Your symptoms might be reversible
The symptoms you are concerned about might be caused by a condition that is reversible. And even if there is also an underlying dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease, diagnosis and treatment of reversible conditions can improve brain function and reduce symptoms.
- It may be treatable
Some causes of cognitive decline are not reversible, but might be treatable.
- With treatments, the sooner the better
Treatment of Alzheimer’s and other dementia-causing diseases is typically most effective when started early in the disease process. Once more effective treatments become available, obtaining an early and accurate diagnosis will be even more crucial.
- It’s empowering
An earlier diagnosis enables the person to participate in their own legal, financial, and long-term care planning and to make their wishes known to family members.
- You can focus on what’s important to you
It allows the person the opportunity to reprioritize how they spend their time – focusing on what matters most to them – perhaps completing life goals such as travel, recording family history, completing projects, or making memories with grandchildren while they still can.
- You can make your best choices
Early diagnosis can prevent unwise choices that might otherwise be made in ignorance – such as moving far away from family and friends, or making legal or financial commitments that will be hard to keep as the disease progresses.
- You can use the resources available to you
Individuals diagnosed early in the disease process can take advantage of early-stage support groups and learn tips and strategies to better manage and cope with the symptoms of the disease.
- Participate or advocate for research
Those diagnosed early can also take advantage of clinical trials – or advocate for more research and improved care and opportunities.
- You can further people’s understanding of the disease
Earlier diagnosis helps to reduce the stigma associated with the disease. We learn to associate the disease with people in the early stages, when they are still cogent and active in the community.
- It will help your family
An earlier diagnosis gives families more opportunity to learn about the disease, develop realistic expectations, and plan for their future together – which can result in reduced stress and feelings of burden and regret later in the disease process.
- It will help you, too
Early diagnosis allows the person and family to attribute cognitive changes to the disease rather than to personal failings.
Taken altogether, these advantages result in a higher quality of life for the person afflicted, less stress for family care partners, and more time to treasure the present and prepare for the future.