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Early Diagnosis: Better Preparing for Dementia’s Impact

By: Phyllis Ferrell

This guest post comes from Paola Barbarino, CEO of Alzheimer’s Disease International

Paola Headshot

Every 3 seconds someone in the world develops dementia. But of this huge tide of people most do not receive a diagnosis - let alone treatment and care.

This World Alzheimer’s Month, we are calling on all people to recognise the warning signs of dementia so that they may seek advice and support as early as possible.

A diagnosis of dementia made earlier in the course of the disease is fundamental to ensure that those affected can live as well as possible. In 2017, there will be an expected 10 million new cases of dementia but in low and middle income countries, as few as 10% of people living with dementia will receive a diagnosis.

The global plan on dementia adopted by the World Health Organization (WHO) in May 2017 urges that every government develop awareness of and access to diagnosis for dementia. Alzheimer associations in over 90 countries can also provide support and advice for seeking a diagnosis, and help after a diagnosis is made.

National implementation of the global plan is deeply needed. Right now, people diagnosed with dementia often receive a lower standard of care and face exclusion from everyday life, while millions more do not receive a diagnosis at all. This has huge implications for the great number of people around the world who are not diagnosed, and their care partners.

There is no simple test to make a diagnosis of dementia. A reasonably accurate diagnosis can be made by taking a careful history of the person's problem from the individual alongside a close relative or friend, together with an examination of the individual’s physical and mental state. More research into the diagnosis of dementia is paramount, and must be accompanied by increasing healthcare capacity, and the efficiency with which care is delivered.

An earlier diagnosis is helpful for several reasons. Firstly, it enables carers and people with dementia to be better equipped to cope with the disease progression. Secondly, it provides people with dementia with an opportunity to make decisions about their financial and legal affairs while they still have the capacity to do so. A third benefit of earlier diagnosis is that it gives people with dementia a better chance to benefit from available drug and non-drug therapies that may improve their cognition and enhance their quality of life.

Dementia is not a normal part of aging. Please read the 10 warning signs of dementia below, and if yourself or anyone you know show any of these signs, seek professional help.

Alz Warning Signs Infographic

All over the world people are helping spread these messages through thousands of activities. Join the campaign by using the hashtag #WorldAlzMonth and visit our World Alzheimer’s Month website at https://www.worldalzmonth.org/ to get involved.