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Monday, Mar 30, 2015

LeBlanc: When Alzheimer's goes undiagnosed

Common Sense Caregiving


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The number of people believed to be afflicted with Alzheimer's disease is estimated to have reached 36 million worldwide. Unfortunately there is a problem with this number: Some people believe it is low.

The aforementioned numbers have been gathered, for the most part, from death certificates. The problem is this: should you have a loved one who is suffering from Alzheimer's and, sadly, he or she is taken from you prematurely by either a cardiac arrest or a stroke. Chances are you won't find the word "Alzheimer's" on the death certificate.

There is also a worldwide dilemma. According to Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI) some 20 to 50 percent of the affliction's victims have been identified in high-income countries including the United States. About 10 percent of the cases are in low- and middle-income countries.

Early detection is so important! Granted there currently is no cure, but the sooner victims realize what is happening to them, the more accurately they can start planning ahead and begin working on having a respectable quality of life. I know I would want to know as soon as possible so I could put everything into its proper perspective while possible.

Recent studies suggest the disease actually starts developing about 10 years before symptoms occur.

The medications we have today only address symptoms of the disease and I strongly want to stress that point. They do not modify the course of the disease. Robert Egge, vice president of public policy with Alzheimer's Association, states: "These drugs typically stop working within six months to a year." He also suggests the drugs might work better if they are given very early in the course of the disease, even before symptoms are strongly evident.

Researchers are working to discover the bio-markers from the earliest possible detection of the disease. The amount of people suffering from this illness is likely to triple by the year 2050. The United Nations is pressing for the development of a strategy which will promote early detection throughout the world. Of course one of the biggest problems with this is funding, and in today's economy raising the kind of money needed is going to be extremely difficult.

If you or someone close to you is showing signs of cognitive impairment, please don't ignore it. I know from personal experience how hard it can be to get these loved ones to a doctor. It took a major battle finally to get my father to agree to see his doctor about his declining condition. But that was the first true step in making sure he was well cared for and given the best quality of life I could offer. This isn't something that is going to go away. It is a hardship they will have to deal with the remainder of their lives.

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