January marks Alzheimer awareness month, and the emphasis is on early diagnosis.
According to statistics, as many as 50% of Canadians with dementia are not diagnosed early enough, losing precious time when care and support can make a tremendous difference in their quality of life and avert unnecessary crises for their families.
That’s why during Alzheimer awareness month, the Alzheimer Society is launching a new campaign, Early Diagnosis Keeps Your Life from Unravelling, to promote the benefits of early diagnosis.
Unfortunately, obstacles like fear and stigma continue to get in the way of moving forward, officials with the Society say.
Stereotypes and misinformation are what prevent people with dementia from getting the help they need and stop others from taking the disease seriously.
In a recent Nanos survey, 60% of Canadians polled said it would be harder to disclose if they, or someone close to them, had Alzheimer’s disease compared to other diseases because of the social stigma associated with mental health issues.
Earlier diagnosis opens the door to important information, resources and support through local Alzheimer Societies and helps people with dementia focus on their abilities to remain independent in their homes and communities longer.
Health officials say that with early diagnosis, people can access medications which, although may not work for everyone, are most effective when taken early. On a practical level, an early diagnosis gives someone the chance to explain the changes happening in their life to family and friends and allows families to plan ahead.
Throughout January, Canadians are encouraged to visit the Alzheimer Society’s campaign website, earlydiagnosis.ca, to learn how to spot the signs of dementia, understand the benefits of a diagnosis and prepare for a doctor’s visit.
Today, 747,000 Canadians are living with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, with this number expected to increase to 1.4 million in less than 20 years. Although Canada’s aging demographic will continue to fuel these numbers, increasingly people in their 40s and 50s are also being affected. Growing evidence also shows that brain changes resulting in dementia can begin 25 years before symptoms appear.
Canadians can do their part if they learn the facts about dementia. By knowing more about the disease, they can help to dispel inaccurate information and work to change society’s attitudes and opinions towards people with the disease.
The can also maintain relationships with people with dementia at home, in the community or at work, especially as the disease progresses. The worst thing that can happen is to avoid people who are going through such a terrible ordeal – they need all the help and support we can give.