Don’t put off today what could empower your tomorrow
Dementia Action Week serves as a powerful reminder that early intervention and proactive diagnosis are essential for individuals living with dementia. From May 12-16, the Alzheimer’s Society is running a campaign to encourage people to act on dementia and demystify common barriers to seeking a diagnosis. There has recently been a decrease in dementia diagnosis rates. However, this does not reflect a drop in affected cases, as the number of people affected by dementia grows annually. Rather, this indicates a decrease in people seeking out health professionals and receiving a diagnosis. This shows it’s time to emphasise the importance of an informed, proactive approach.
Benefits of an early diagnosis
The Alzheimer’s Society shares that nine in ten people living with dementia believe that their diagnosis benefitted them significantly. Conversely, those who delayed their diagnosis for two or more years expressed regret at their inaction and hesitancy, with three in five wishing they had sought diagnosis sooner.
Moreover, there can often be a lot of fear about seeking a diagnosis. Over half of people fear dementia diagnosis, with 62 per cent believing it means that their ‘life is over’. However, putting off what may be inevitable puts on hold on important preparation, and prolongs access to benefits, protections and support. Accordingly, it is crucial to address the apprehension and anxiety many associate with seeking a diagnosis and share the positive impact it can have on accessing vital support, preparation, and benefits.
Empowerment through diagnosis
A timely diagnosis brings clarity and relief to patients and their families. By putting a name to the mystery symptoms and gaining support for the journey ahead, individuals can navigate their lives with more confidence and a sense of direction. Many report finding comfort in the new knowledge a diagnosis brings, instead of trekking an unknown path in the dark.
A proactive approach to treatment is also made possible, allowing for better management and improved outcomes than are afforded when diagnosis is delayed treatment becomes reactive. It is essential to overcome the overwhelming dread of diagnosis and recognise the value of investigating symptoms, whether to rule out dementia or chart the journey forward.
Breaking down the age-memory loss misconception
As the campaign highlights, ‘it’s not called getting old, it’s called getting ill.’ The conflation of memory loss with old age has formed a dangerous misconception that often misleads people from identifying mounting symptoms of dementia. It is important to dispel this belief and raise awareness that changes in mood, behaviour, daily living activities, and mental abilities are not just signs of ageing. They can also all be signs of the progressive brain syndromes that encompass over 100 different varieties of dementia. Recognising and addressing these symptoms promptly can lead to early intervention and better quality of life.
Moving towards a clearer future
If you or someone you know may be experiencing symptoms, the Alzheimer’s Society encourages you to complete the following checklist. This can help guide conversations with a doctor or health professional, noting any difficulties you have had in a clear, accessible structure.
Symptoms checklist: https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/form/checklist-for-dementia-symptoms
By acting during Dementia Action Week and recognising the benefits of an early diagnosis, we can empower individuals with dementia and ensure they receive the support, care, and resources they deserve at the earliest possible.
You can find our blog on Alzheimer’s Disease here.