In Part 1 of this 5-part guide, we discussed the definition of early dementia detection (so check there first if you feel unclear) and examined some of the statistics that demonstrate how it is rarely accessed by the public. This section will continue to build upon the points made in the introduction by presenting some of the many benefits that early detection can provide.
One of the most harmful and common misunderstandings about dementia is that nothing can be done about it once a diagnosis is made, so there is no point in getting diagnosed. This false belief may be largely responsible for the vast gap between the number of people believe to have dementia and the few who receive an early diagnosis. People are needlessly suffering because they are not being assessed. The truth is that there are many potential benefits to the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, some of which we now discuss more closely.
Confirming the Diagnosis
The most immediate benefit of detecting the early symptoms of dementia is that it gives someone the opportunity to receive a proper diagnosis. As it currently stands, the earliest means of detecting dementia symptoms is through a cognitive evaluation, like the SAGE exam on which the BrainTest® app is based. While these tests can identify some of the earliest cognitive changes associated with dementia, follow-up assessments are necessary to determine the exact form being dealt with (Alzheimer’s disease, Lewy body dementia, vascular dementia, etc.).
Once a definitive diagnosis has been made then a course of treatment can begin. Medications are often used at this stage to address both the impairment of mental processes caused by early dementia, as well as the psychological impact of being diagnosed. Establishing an effective treatment routine early in the progression of the disease can pay dividends in the long run, as these early interventions have been associated with stalling cognitive decline and an overall reduction in mortality rates.
Acceptance and Planning
Receiving a dementia diagnosis can be a stressful experience that may take a significant amount of time to “sink in”. Initial reactions can range from sadness to anger and confusion. The emotional turmoil can be severe, but gaining an early diagnosis can help to expedite the process of acceptance in several ways.
- Early interventions can support mental health during the acceptance stage, minimizing the impact of emotional turmoil and reducing the chances of developing a mental health disorder like depression after being diagnosed.
- As the initial shock subsides, the presence of fewer symptoms and the likelihood of finding effective medications during the earliest stages of dementia means that there will be more time available to enjoy life and plan for the future.
- Planning is a critical part of the dementia care process, and early diagnosis allows for the most time to do so. Arranging for household management, personal care, and other responsibilities will provide peace of mind, while also making it easier for caregivers in the long term by giving them a clear strategy to follow.
Up Next: Methods Used for Early Detection
Now that we have a better understanding of the benefits that can be experienced from the early identification of dementia symptoms (and we only covered a few of the many), we will turn the discussion to the methods used for detection. Part 3 of our 5-part series is coming up next, and we will show you the best ways to keep tabs on your cognitive health as it relates to dementia.