Early diagnosis - the benefits and merits
Early diagnosis enables the person living with dementia and their family to receive help in understanding and adjusting to the diagnosis and to prepare for the future in an appropriate way.
Early planning and assistance
This may include making legal and financial arrangements, changes to living arrangements, and finding out about aids and services that can enhance quality of life. Early diagnosis can allow the person with dementia to have an active role in decision making and planning for the future while their family and friends can educate themselves about the disease and learn effective ways of interacting with their loved one.
Changes in memory and thinking ability can be very worrying. Symptoms of dementia can be caused by several different diseases and conditions, some of which are treatable and reversible, including infections, depression, medication side-effects or nutritional deficiencies. The sooner the cause of dementia symptoms is identified, the sooner treatment can begin.
There is evidence that the currently available medications for Alzheimer's disease may be more beneficial if given early in the disease process. These medications can help to maintain daily funciton and quality of life as well as stabilise cognitive decline in some people; however, they do not help everyone and they are not a cure. Early diagnosis allows for prompt access to medications and medical attention.
Receiving a diagnosis can also help in the management of other symptoms which may accompany the early stage of dementia, such as depression or irritability. Also reviewing management of other medical conditions is critical, as memory problems may interfere with remembering to take important medications such as for diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure.