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The Importance of Early Alzheimer's Disease Detection

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Dementia is a blanket term for memory loss and intellectual disabilities that interfere with daily tasks. However, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, Alzheimer’s Disease makes up 60-80% of all types of dementia cases. Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging though. While it is documented that those older in years may experience slower thinking and the occasional difficulty with remembering something in particular, Alzheimer’s is much more severe and needs careful monitoring. 

Alzheimer’s symptoms include:

  • Difficulty remembering newly acquired information

  • Behavior and mood changes

  • Disorientation

  • Confusion

  • Deep suspicion of those close to the patient

  • Difficulty speaking, walking, or swallowing

Although scientists do not know exactly how Alzheimer’s starts, they believe abnormal cell structures in the brain known as plaques and tangles are to blame. Plaques and tangles end up blocking communication between different nerve cells therefore interrupting processes the cells need to survive. This results in cell death that causes irreversible damage in the brain leading to personality changes, memory loss, and disruption carrying out daily activities. Although these plaques and tangles are known to occur naturally with age, people with Alzheimer’s are proven to have more of them and form them in a specific pattern that first impedes memory and then spreads over to other regions of the brain. While Alzheimer’s is currently incurable, support and treatment options have greatly improved over the years helping to delay the progression of the disease. This means early detection is integral in warding off worsening symptoms for as long as possible.

On average it takes caregivers thirty months from when they first notice a change in those they care for, to that person finally being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This delay is believed to be a combination of factors including:

  • Lack of information about the disease

  • Being unsure of what type of doctor to see

  • Not realizing such symptoms could in fact be part of an illness

  • Feeling overwhelmed by the deteriorating state of the person for which they are caring

Adding to these difficulties is the fact that those with signs of dementia can be in denial or defensive about their situation and therefore cause an additional delay in cognitive testing. As a caregiver, the best thing you can do is educate yourself and be on the lookout for abnormal signs of dementia.

In terms of treatment, today a combination of medication, changes in lifestyle, additional outside support, and symptom management can help when it comes to aiding memory and behavior affected by Alzheimer’s. Non-medical interventions, such as the following, are becoming increasingly popular in order to help control the environment of the Alzheimer’s patient:

  • Memory aids

  • Speech therapy

  • Communication aids

  • Behavioral therapy

  • Exercise

  • Sleep

  • Education

  • Memory stimulation therapy

Health insurance does not cover care for an Alzheimer’s patient but long term care insurance and hybrid products, such as life insurance with a long term care rider or annuity with a long term care rider, do. However, insurance must be purchased prior to having a cognitive impairment. Some carriers do inquire about family history regarding dementia and it can impact the pricing for your policy. Learn the facts about long term care insurance and see if it is right for you.

Having those you love be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s can feel frightening and overwhelming. However, the sooner the first signs of dementia are caught, the earlier measures can be put into place in order to delay the progression of the disease. If someone you care for has been showing the first signs of dementia— do not delay. Get them tested immediately and make plans for their long term care. Early detection and long term planning can greatly improve the quality of life for both the patient and caregiver.


Detection of Alzheimer’s . 25 Nov. 2015. <>.

What is Alzheimer’s? Alzheimer’s Association.