According to a 2018 report by the Alzheimer’s Association, the American population could save almost 8 trillion dollars in potential costs and gain many personal benefits through the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. New research advancements in the identification of biomarkers are expected to help these savings be realized, but there is a long way to go before they can be effectively applied to the population at large.
In diagnostic terms, the progression of Alzheimer’s disease is commonly recognized as having three distinct stages:
1) Preclinical Alzheimer’s disease
2) Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) due to Alzheimer’s disease
3) Dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease
Until recently, biomarkers were only useful for diagnosing Alzheimer’s in the dementia stage. Biomarkers include any physical material (proteins, microorganisms, chemicals, etc.) that can be detected through medical investigation methods, like fluid tests, x-rays, and other imaging tools.
Now, researchers have demonstrated that biomarkers are also available to indicate a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s at the MCI stage of development. However, the findings are relatively new and it will take some time before the methods can be verified and widely implemented.
Currently, the most accessible ways to check for cognitive signs of early dementia, like MCI due to Alzheimer’s disease, are to be regularly evaluated by a professional and to use self-assessment tools such as the BrainTest® app. Detecting early symptoms can have several benefits in terms of both personal and financial well-being.
The most important personal benefit of detecting early dementia symptoms may be that it allows us to seek a professional diagnosis. There are many causes of cognitive impairments, some of which qualify as MCI (non-Alzheimer’s versions), and having early signs evaluated will help to correctly identify the root problem.
In addition to the obvious upsides associated with getting a correct diagnosis, the early detection of Alzheimer’s symptoms can provide multiple medical benefits. While no means of stopping or slowing the disease are available, there are treatments that can help preserve cognitive abilities during the MCI due to Alzheimer’s stage. Additionally, after being diagnosed, a person could be eligible to participate in clinical trials for evaluating new treatments that are not publically available.
There are both emotional and social gains that can be made from getting an early Alzheimer’s diagnosis. It can potentially ease a lot of stress for both the diagnosed and their loved ones, as they are likely to have been concerned by the cognitive changes that initially led to the identification of MCI due to Alzheimer’s disease. There is also more opportunity to spend time with people they care about and to attend regular social activities before the symptoms begin to interfere.
Time for Planning
The earlier that Alzheimer’s symptoms are diagnosed, the more time will be available for the diagnosed person to take part in planning for their own care. While often difficult, end-of-life planning is also a necessary part of an Alzheimer’s care plan, and it can be invaluable to have a person’s own desires known to all involved before dementia symptoms take that opportunity away.
As noted in the opening paragraph, receiving a diagnosis as early as possible in the progression of Alzheimer’s disease can prevent a potentially huge amount of financial loss. Most of these expenses are directly related to healthcare, as the preservation of mental faculties during the MCI due to Alzheimer’s stage can significantly lessen the costs associated with long-term support.
An early diagnosis can also result in financial benefits on a personal level. Having the condition confirmed will prevent costs that could arise from seeking treatments for the wrong disease. People who are working when they are diagnosed can begin to make financial arrangements to support themselves as the disease progresses, instead of being blindsided with debilitating symptoms with no savings or planning in place.
Aiming for Earlier
There are many benefits of receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis as early as possible. Currently, we are only capable of detecting the disease after some symptoms have already developed. It will be necessary to find a means of identifying Alzheimer’s disease during the preclinical stage if we are to experience the full financial and personal benefits that are predicted by the Alzheimer’s Association’s report. In the meantime, we can gain the most by checking for symptoms regularly and as early as possible, which can be easily accomplished using a self-assessment tool like the BrainTest® app.