January is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Like many of you, I think about Alzheimers quite often; not only the occasional word finding challenge but for anyone who lives with dementia- closely impacting their own lives- the changes it brings. Do we need a special awareness month to remind us? Yes we do.
Most of us are in denial. We don’t want to acknowledge losses and changes in the behaviour and personality of our parents (and maybe our spouses). We wait; we think this is all a normal part of aging, but what happens when we wait? The insidious disease process continues. Caregivers typically wait 5 years before seeking assistance- for themselves. However what happens in those 5 years with a dementing process that is well underway?
Alzheimers is just one of several different dementias (as illustrated in this infographic) that share the sad reality that it is a progressive disease that cannot yet be cured.
The Alzheimer’s Society recommends that early diagnosis is the best chance for treatment. A proper assessment (although Azheimers can only be diagnosed post mortem) can determine appropriate medications which can slow the disease symptoms. It also allows for families to plan for their future- as the cost of care both emotionally and financially can be overwhelming. If you have any doubt about what is normal and what isn’t, see your doctor. If it is your parent you are concerned about, offer to go with them to see their doctor. While we may not want to hear the diagnosis of the deadly ‘d’ word, we are better off knowing and facing the challenge head on.
As in most things in life, don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.