Alzheimer's blog

Early diagnosis of Alzheimer's empowers people

By Angela Lunde March 4, 2010

Thanks to all of you for your candid comments about the importance of early diagnosis and the need for more supportive services after a diagnosis.

I just completed delivering another session of a program called HABIT (Healthy Action to Benefit Independence and Thinking). Persons in this program have a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment or early stage Alzheimer's disease. Many of these participants talked about the challenge of having their memory concerns validated and receiving a clear diagnosis. Fortunately, these folks were able to get a diagnosis early and are pro-actively taking steps to compensate for their impairment and possibly slow down decline.

I feel strongly that persons are empowered when they receive an early diagnosis. They begin to understand that the changes and challenges are likely part of a disease process — not a lack of effort, motivation, or sign of weakness. An early diagnosis offers the patient and their family time to arm themselves with knowledge and take full advantage of existing strengths. And early diagnosis allows for psychiatric symptoms such as depression to be identified and treated. I don't want to imply that an early diagnosis provides individuals and families with rose colored glasses (nobody wishes for the diagnosis and the journey will not be easy), but instead it does help them with an understanding and a plan for whatever the future will bring.

If you're concerned about memory changes in yourself or a loved one, the Alzheimer's Association has a document that can be helpful to complete and take to your doctor. You can find the checklist on the Resources tab above, and a link to the Mayo Clinic memory training program.

Mar. 04, 2010