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Advice by Alicia: Benefits of Early Memory Loss Detection

Q. My mom is worried she may be dealing with memory loss, but she isn’t seeking support because she believes it’s not that bad yet. How can I help her see that knowing now can make a big difference later?

A. It’s always difficult when a parent doesn’t want to seek a diagnosis of dementia. There are two sides we really need to consider when it comes to supporting her on this journey. One, understanding where she’s coming from – and two, educating her on the benefits of seeking a diagnosis early.

While the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shares that nearly 90% of Americans would want to know if the cause of their confusion and memory loss was Alzheimer’s disease, over half of those 45 and older with subjective cognitive decline haven’t talked to a healthcare provider about their concerns – so your mom has plenty of company in this hesitation.

It’s possible she may be straying away from a diagnosis because of fear of judgment, worries about how her abilities may decline, or even concern about how she will be treated once she receives a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Take some time to talk to her to get her point of view; this way, you can learn more about her feelings and how you can help support her emotionally.

In the meantime, consider some of these helpful tips that can help you – and anyone who is concerned about a loved one – determine just how much memory loss is affecting them while learning how to share the importance of obtaining an early diagnosis.

Signs It Could Be Time for a Screening

Is your parent complaining about memory problems or requiring more consistent reminders and notes? Are you noticing changes in your loved one that are unusual or entirely unlike them? If so, it may be a good idea to evaluate whether or not you should call their doctor.

While these aren’t all of the many signs a dementia screening could be helpful, here are some you should be looking for, according to the Alzheimer’s Association®. Often, these can serve as helpful guiding points in seeking a diagnosis, bringing a range of benefits along with it.

  • Memory loss that interferes with daily life
  • Difficulty completing tasks that are familiar or routine
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Difficulty communicating
  • Poor judgment
  • Personality changes

Benefits of Early Detection

People with dementia, including their caregivers, can better inform themselves while planning for the future all because of the early detection of memory loss. Check out some of the advantages of seeking support early.

Medical Benefits

Sometimes what looks like memory loss can actually be another health problem, like head trauma; a short-term ailment in disguise, like depression; a urinary tract infection; thyroid problems; issues with medications; or even vitamin deficiencies. Knowing this ahead of time helps rule out side effects from these conditions, as well as other medications.

Early diagnosis also offers a chance to put care teams in place, properly discuss treatments, and possibly participate in clinical trials, which are more effective in the earlier stages. It also allows for your loved one to make healthy lifestyle changes while preserving cognitive function and slowing disease progression.

Emotional Benefits

Many people who have been diagnosed with dementia shared that knowing in the early stages helped lessen their anxiety about why they were facing certain changes and symptoms. They were also happy they had the ability to seek out mental health resources, dementia education, and encouragement from others facing similar circumstances.

Families are also able to be more intentional about recording meaningful memories with their loved one, whether through writing, photos or videos.

Social Benefits

Early diagnosis of memory loss allows the person with dementia to explain the changes they are experiencing to family and friends in their own way, when they are most comfortable. They can also take this time to pursue lifelong dreams or bucket list items.

Future Planning Benefits

As much as we may not like to think about it, early diagnosis of dementia also allows for legal, financial and end-of-life decisions to be made with your loved one’s involvement. From designating powers of attorney and creating a living will to detailing medical care and planning living arrangements, these topics are crucial to help reduce the weight on families while preventing future disagreements.

Receiving a Diagnosis

If you’d like to begin the process of obtaining a diagnosis for your loved one, contact a doctor. They will gather your loved one’s background, medical history, symptoms, and likely conduct a medical exam. According to the Mayo Clinic, they may also administer a number of tests, including those that evaluate thinking skills. In addition, they may complete a neurological or psychiatric evaluation, conduct brain scans, and do bloodwork.

What Comes Next

After a diagnosis, it’s important to keep in mind that reactions can vary from person to person. Some may jump right into their questions, while others may need another appointment with their doctor after they do some research. No matter their reaction, encourage your loved one to seek support.

This is also a great time for family members to educate themselves on the disease or join a support group, like those offered at Bridges® by EPOCH communities. Join us for an upcoming support group by visiting our website or reaching out to the community nearest you.

About Alicia

Alicia Seaver is Vice President of Memory Care Operations for EPOCH Senior Living and a Certified Memory Impairment Specialist. Every month, she addresses a specific issue related to memory and memory care. If you’re interested in hearing about a particular topic, please send a note to aseaver@epochsl.com.

Enhancing Quality of Life

Bridges® by EPOCH memory care communities have been developed from the ground up to anticipate, meet and exceed the needs of our residents and their families. Our team of remarkable people, the exceptional care and services we offer, and the purposeful design of our buildings all combine to create the most rewarding, secure and nurturing lifestyle possible for our residents.

Bridges® by EPOCH communities are located in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, in the following towns: Norwalk, CT; Stamford, CT; Trumbull, CT; Andover, MA; Hingham, MA; Lexington, MA; Mashpee, MA; Pembroke, MA; Sudbury, MA; Westford, MA; Westwood, MA; and Nashua, NH.

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