Posted on 19 January 2012 by admin
January is Alzheimer Awareness Month, and this year the Alzheimer Society of B.C. is educating British Columbians on the benefits of early diagnosis.
Every five minutes, someone in Canada develops Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, yet there are still thousands of people who delay a visit to their doctor to talk about symptoms of dementia such as memory loss, difficulty performing familiar tasks, and problems with language.
New research by the Alzheimer Society of Canada released this month reveals that a treatment gap has emerged nation-wide for people impacted by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
While Canadians recognize the symptoms of dementia, almost half of people with dementia delayed seeing their doctor and receiving treatment for longer than one year. In fact, 75 per cent of people with dementia who responded to our survey said they wished they had seen their doctor sooner about their symptoms.
For people living with dementia, one year can make a world of difference to their journey with the disease. Early diagnosis can spell relief from worry for people experiencing troubling symptoms. Early diagnosis means access to medication to minimize symptoms, as well as time to adjust to the diagnosis and prepare coping strategies.
Early diagnosis also allows time to plan the future with loved ones and build confidence that the person with dementia can maintain quality of life on the dementia journey.
“There is life after diagnosis,” is the refrain of Jim Mann, a retired public relations professional from Surrey, B.C. Mann was diagnosed in 2007 at age 58 when he was at the height of his career.
Mann recognized the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease when he started losing his way at airports despite being a seasoned traveler, and losing track of the conversation when interacting with colleagues.
Speaking to his doctor about his concerns led to an early diagnosis, which meant he had time to decide and a choice about how he would live with dementia.
Mann decided to make the most of his professional experience by becoming an Alzheimer’s advocate. Today, he is a nationally-recognized spokesperson who is active in his community, living life to the fullest and making a difference for people impacted by Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
For Mann, having more time with the diagnosis meant having more control over his life.
Treatment, support and control – with all the benefits of early diagnosis, why do so many people delay a visit to the doctor about dementia symptoms?
Our survey of 400 caregivers for persons with dementia revealed 57 per cent of caregivers felt they (or their family member or friend) were reluctant to seek a diagnosis because they thought the symptoms were a part of normal aging, didn’t want to talk about it with anybody, didn’t want to see their doctor, or didn’t think anything could be done about it anyway.
Alzheimer’s disease is not a normal part of aging, and though there is no cure yet, there are treatment options available and there is help.
That’s why we’re asking British Columbians this month to know the warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
If you’re concerned for yourself or a loved one, talk to your doctor to know for sure. Your family physician is best qualified to rule out a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or to refer you to other medical specialists if required.
Visit our campaign website at www.letsfaceitbc.ca to get more information about the warning signs and to download resources you can take with you to the doctor’s office.
If you are the one of two British Columbians who knows someone with dementia, we also have links to programs and support information that can help. If you’re interested in taking action and having an impact on the way we all live with Alzheimer’s disease, please take a look at our advocacy materials as well.
Together, Let’s Face It, B.C., and take steps to address Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Don’t wait. If you’re experiencing dementia symptoms, put your mind at ease and talk to your doctor now.
CEO, Alzheimer Society of B.C.