Treating Alzheimer's — A Partnership Between You, Your Patients and Their Caregivers
Current studies estimate, that between 2000 and 2005, fewer than 35 percent of people living with Alzheimer's or related dementias actually had a diagnosis of the condition in their medical record.1 Almost 90 percent of Americans say if they had episodes of confusion and memory loss, they would want to know that the cause of the symptoms was Alzheimer's disease.2
Consider a complete diagnostic workup when informal cognitive tests suggest further evaluation is needed or when a patient or family member expresses a persistent suspicion that something may be wrong.
It is important to determine the cause of memory loss or other symptoms early. Some dementia-like symptoms can be reversed if they are caused by treatable conditions, such as depression, medication, thyroid problems, vitamin deficiencies or excess use of alcohol.
Early detection of memory loss or cognitive impairment offers the best overall outcome for those with dementia and their support team.
Benefits of early diagnosis for people with dementia and their families
- People in the early stages are better able to report symptoms and concerns and understand their own disease
- Increased opportunity to maximize independence by seeking the support of services offered by community resources, such as the Alzheimer's Association, New York City Chapter
- Opportunity to plan for the future, reduce stress and feelings of being a burden
- Best opportunity to benefit from treatments and choose their caregiving team
- Ability to participate in clinical studies
Benefits for practitioners
- Increased treatable or even reversible disorders, avoiding further medical or psychosocial complications
- Proactive intervention that may open the door to medications to improve symptoms
- Better management of complications from co-existing medical conditions
- Ability to make referrals to clinical studies
- Better understanding of patients' abilities to manage their own care, including medications
- Better assessment of patients' abilities to make their own health care decisions, whenever possible
- Wisdom to know when it's time to address safety concerns before accidents or emergencies occur
Disclosure and discussion of a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease or other dementia are an ongoing process that should be addressed during multiple office visits. The Alzheimer's Association has more information for physicians on diagnosis, including assessment tools and other clinical resources. You can refer patients and their families to the Alzheimer's Association to learn about Alzheimer's disease, find a support group, get advice about caregiving or participate in a clinical trial.
1Boise et al., 2004; Boustani et al., 2005; Ganguli et al., 2004; Valcour et al., 2000.
2Harvard School of Public Health, Alzheimer Europe. Value of Knowing - Research - Alzheimer Europe. Value of Knowing. Available at www.alzheimer-europe.org/Research/Value-of-knowing.