This is Alzheimer Awareness Month. . . . Let’s face it! Get the facts. Know for sure.
Canadians still are dismissing symptoms of dementia as “just old age” based on survey results released last week by the Alzheimer Society.
Close to 50 percent of Canadians lived a year or more with their symptoms before seeing a family doctor.
Of these, 16 percent waited more than two years.
A delayed diagnosis results in a huge treatment gap and prevents people from getting valuable information about medications, support, and better disease management.
To promote the benefits of early diagnosis, the Alzheimer Society is launching its “Let’s face it!” campaign this month.
The online survey, which was conducted by the Society in the fall, also revealed that the most common reason for the delay (53 percent) was the belief that the symptoms were part of “old age” and eventually would go away.
Another 39 percent said their symptoms were episodic or didn’t take them seriously enough.
Over a quarter either refused to see a doctor or saw no need to go unless symptoms grew worse.
However, three-quarters of respondents–caregivers of people with dementia—admitted they wished they had sought a diagnosis sooner to have access to treatments to manage symptoms.
They also recognized other benefits of getting a diagnosis when shown a list of these.
Seventy-eight percent of respondents said that early diagnosis would help them put their legal and financial affairs in order.
Some 69 percent said it would keep the person with dementia at home longer, and allow the person to actively participate in decision-making.
And 62 percent of respondents attributed better coping and living with the disease to early diagnosis.
“Symptoms of dementia are different from normal aging,” stressed Lynn Moffatt, executive director of the Alzheimer Society of Kenora/Rainy River Districts.
“We are encouraging community members to learn the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease so they can recognize the symptoms.”
Individuals can learn the warning signs by visiting www.alzheimerkrr.com or contacting the Alzheimer Society at 1-800-682-0245.
“We offer a program to support individuals newly-diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, and their families, called ‘First Link,” noted Moffatt.
“First Link” provides support as early as possible and throughout the disease process.
“Early access to ongoing education, services, and support makes a huge difference to individuals and families affected by dementia,” said Moffatt.
“It increases their knowledge and understanding of dementia, helping them to cope more confidently with the challenges, plan for the future, reduce stress, prevent crises, and improve quality of life while living with the disease,” she added.