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Why early testing for dementia is so important

Why Early Testing for Dementia Matters

Did you know that 80% of older adults acknowledge the benefits of early testing for dementia? This is according to the findings of a University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging of individuals aged 65 to 80.  

And yet many individuals continue to ignore early warning signs of dementia. Often this is due to a fear of receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. And yet, when caught early, there are many benefits to be had, benefits that become more elusive as the disease progresses.

The Alzheimer’s Association has identified five good reasons why it’s so important to get tested early. They are as follows:

  1. Gain understanding of symptoms. Receiving an early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s provides answers to puzzling questions as to why an individual is experiencing memory loss and other confusing symptoms. It will also give them time to gather with family and friends and optimize the time they have together.
  2. Access to treatment options. While we have yet to find a cure for dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease, today’s medications may lessen the impact of the disease on memory. They work by attacking beta-amyloid, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. Dr. Tam Cummings, gerontologist, author, and dementia expert, urges individuals to get tested early. The earlier an individual seeks treatment; the more effective medications are in that they can slow the progression of the disease.
  3. Opportunity to participate in clinical trials. An early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s makes an individual more eligible for a wider range of trials. Not only may the individual benefit, but their participation will also help to pave the way for better treatments and possibly a cure downstream.
  4. Time to optimize your health. An early diagnosis gives an individual the opportunity to restructure their health regimen to include brain-healthy habits, such as stopping smoking, getting more exercise, and staying mentally and socially active. Better habits may help preserve cognitive function longer.
  5. More time to plan. An early diagnosis gives an individual time to deal with legal, financial and end of life issues before the disease enters later stages. It also gives family members time to adjust and plan as well. This can help lessen the burden on family and avoid conflict downstream.

It’s actually easier than you may think to get tested. And the good news is that testing is covered by Medicare. It supports cognitive assessment services to individuals who are showing signs of cognitive impairment, along with a shorter test for those who aren’t yet experiencing any cognitive challenges.

Why wait? If you or a loved one is over age 65, even if there is no evidence of memory loss, it is prudent to be tested. Knowledge is power after all. And early diagnosis will open doors to clinical trials, treatments, and planning at a time when you have more control over your life. Early testing is a gift to you and to the family you love.