Dementia & Alzheimer's: Why Early Intervention Is Key

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Dementia & Alzheimer's: Why Early Intervention Is Key

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It’s not a secret that early intervention is vital for people facing a diagnosis. After all, the sooner someone can begin treatment or making lifestyle changes, the better their prognosis typically becomes. 

This is undoubtedly the case for people diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s. When someone you love receives a diagnosis, it’s a life-changing moment, and it can sometimes feel overwhelming. Though, having a diagnosis means that your loved one now has access to interventions, treatment, and care they wouldn’t be able to have otherwise. Here are a few ways early intervention can be helpful.

Benefits of Early Dementia Interventions 

Get a Specific Diagnosis

Early intervention isn’t just a nice term. It can make a world of difference for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s. An early diagnosis can lead to additional screenings, which can help label the specific type of dementia someone has. This level of specificity can help healthcare providers recommend the best kind of care for that particular situation. Not all types of dementia require the same treatments.

Make Lifestyle Changes

Depending on exactly how early your loved one has gotten their diagnosis, they can make specific lifestyle changes to help slow the progress of the disease. Quitting smoking, losing weight, increasing exercise, and improved nutrition have all been shown to impact cognition and potentially slow the progress of memory loss.

Cognitive activities are also a great way to help stop the progression of dementia. Playing music, reading, writing, or even doing puzzles and games are all ways that seniors can help keep their minds sharp.

Participate in Clinical Trials

In some cases, people with an early diagnosis of dementia may be eligible to participate in clinical trials of new treatments. While this may or may not be the best course of action for your loved one, it’s nice to have this option available to them. For some patients who receive a late diagnosis, these new treatments won’t help at all.

Make Decisions Before a Crisis

Another good thing that comes with an early diagnosis is the ability for your loved one to be involved in their care planning. They will likely face more cognitive decline as the disease progresses, and they may eventually need to move to a memory care center in a retirement community. If they’re diagnosed early enough, you can begin to have these conversations with them so they can feel empowered. They can evaluate different memory support options and choose the one that feels the best to them.

Many people with Alzheimer’s or dementia also feel relieved when they receive a diagnosis. They no longer have to wonder why they’re having the symptoms they are, and instead they can move forward and make decisions that can impact their well-being.

Tips for Caregivers

It can be difficult to watch your aging parent or loved one come to terms with a dementia diagnosis, and it can be a struggle to walk alongside them through it. However, there are a few things you can do to navigate this season more smoothly.

  1. Have conversations early and often with your loved one about their care plan.
  2. Help them with lifestyle changes, like exercise, nutrition, and getting better sleep.
  3. Attend doctor’s visits with them whenever possible. This way you can hear the information first-hand, and your parent won’t have to worry about remembering all of it.
  4. Be present with your loved one as much as possible through this uncertain time.

Early diagnosis and intervention is important for both you and your loved ones. After hearing an official diagnosis, it’s important to remember that you now have options and opportunities, and that a diagnosis can be a good thing.

dementia guide - marjorie p lee

Kristin Davenport
By
May 11, 2021
Kristin Davenport is the Director of Communications for Episcopal Retirement Services (ERS). Kristin leads ERS’s efforts to share stories that delight and inspire through social media, online content, annual reports, magazines, newsletters, public relations, and events. Kristin earned her BFA in graphic design from Wittenberg University. She joined ERS after a 25-year career as a visual journalist and creative director in Cincinnati. Kristin is passionate about making Cincinnati a dementia-inclusive city. She is a Lead SAIDO Learning Supporter and a member of the ‘Refresh Your Soul’ conference planning team at ERS. Kristin and her husband Alex, live in Lebanon, Ohio with their 2 daughters. She also serves as a Trustee and the President of the Lebanon Food Pantry and is a board member for ArtScape Lebanon.

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