The benefits of an early dementia diagnosis and subsequent intervention have been proven. For example, such a diagnosis helps a person with Alzheimer’s take control of long-term plans while he or she is mentally and physically able to do so. In many situations, slowing dementia is also possible. Here’s why.
1. Quality of Life Makes a Difference
Earlier intervention means better planning. Instead of family members scrambling to come up with patchwork caregiving, early intervention gives a person with dementia the opportunity to take control. He or she can financially prepare so that services remain available and the quality of life is there. Having a good quality of life that includes, say, regular music therapy or acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, can keep your loved ones walking longer than they would have otherwise. In short, an early diagnosis is effective at slowing dementia and can minimize:
- Declines in cognitive function
- Declines in physical function (walking, swallowing, etc.)
- Episodes of depression and sleeplessness
2. Early Intervention Reduces the Risk of Other Conditions
Odds are high that dementia isn’t the only thing that is happening or that will happen to your loved one. A fall, for example, could cause a hip break. In turn, the required hospitalization could be demoralizing and provoke fits of agitation due to the new environment. It could hasten mental decline. Also, with early intervention, co-occurring conditions such as diabetes are easier to diagnose and manage.
3. Caregiving is Better
The ability to make better plans for caregiving works for slowing dementia in several ways. There’s quality of life as mentioned earlier, and that ties into caregiver stress. Stressed and frustrated family caregivers are more likely to make mistakes and to be impatient. Having plans (such as home nurses or entry to a memory care center) makes for an overall smoother experience that contributes to the well-being of your loved one while slowing his or her dementia.
Your loved one stays alert longer, can stay at home longer, and family caregivers are happier. The financial stress is also reduced, which is equally important.
The Need for Early Diagnosis and Intervention
The numbers about early diagnosis are not encouraging. For example, as many as 50% of people with dementia do not know that they have it. That makes them more prone to behaviors such as taking the car keys and driving when they should not. Also, among those who have been diagnosed, as many as 65 percent (or their caregivers) don’t know about the diagnosis.
If these people could be diagnosed earlier (or at all), they could benefit by:
- Making their own decisions and choices about their lives while they are able
- Putting financial plans and estate plans into place
- Educating themselves about the type of dementia they have
- Lessening risky behaviors (such as driving)
- Living an enhanced quality of life that can slow dementia
- Accessing better medical care
Intervention takes many forms, but they all start with diagnosis. The earlier, the better. Timing does matter with the progression of dementia.