Early detection crucial to effectively managing Alzheimer's

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

alzheimers logo graphicMany families have had loved ones who have been affected by Alzheimer's disease, the most common form of dementia that's characterized by individuals losing their memory, along with several other abnormalities from their typical behavior and temperament.

While the degenerative disease doesn't have a cure, early detection is one of the best ways in which to control it so that it can be effectively managed. However, far too many Canadians are being diagnosed with the condition later than they should have been.

In Canada, Alzheimer's Awareness Month is in January. Through the remainder of the first month of the year, the Alzheimer's Society of Canada is providing residents with different facts about the neurological disease, stressing the importance that senior citizens be screened for it.

Mimi Lowi-Young, CEO for the Alzheimer's Society of Canada, noted how many people in the country have personally been affected by what is today one of the leading causes of death not only in Canada but the world.

"Seventy-four per cent of Canadians know someone with dementia and more and more Canadians will continue to develop the disease," said Lowi-Young. "We want to make sure they're getting the help they need at every stage of the disease,"

She added that while no one wants to be given the news that they or someone they love has Alzheimer's screening for it can provide a lot of relief for families, as it's far better to be aware of it early on so that those affected by it can maintain their health for as long as possible through various forms of treatment.

"Early diagnosis … gives them control over their situation and adds more years of living active and fulfilling lives," said Lowi-Young.

January is Alzheimer's Awareness Month

Throughout January, the Alzheimer's Society of Canada urges all Canadians - particularly those who have a history of it in their family - to visit their website, as they've launched a new campaign about early diagnosis, why it's recommended and what signs can be watched for that indicate someone is symptomatic.

Nearly three quarters of a million Canadians are living with some form of dementia, the most common one being Alzheimer's, according to the Alzheimer's Society of Canada. Diagnoses are anticipated to eclipse 1.4 million within two decades. Though the brain disease is most common in people who are over the age of 65, it's increasingly being found in younger individuals, the condition known as early-onset Alzheimer's. People with this form typically show symptoms in their 40s and 50s.

While those with severe forms of Alzheimer's are often admitted to a nursing facility so that more comprehensive care can be rendered, providing for those affected often falls on family members. And one of their concerns is when driving should be off-limits.

Mark Rapoport, a geriatric neuropsychiatrist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences in Ontario, is in the midst of a five-year study, where elderly motorists have agreed to be monitored in order to see how age-related decline affects their ability to drive safely. Car insurance claims occasionally result from accidents caused by the confusion that Alzheimer's manifests. The program is called the Canadian Driving Research Initiative for Vehicular Safety in the Elderly, or CanDRIVE.

"In the early stages [of dementia], some people may be able to drive," Rapoport told the Alzheimer's Society of Canada. "The main message of CanDRIVE is to keep safe older drivers driving and get unsafe drivers off the roads."

With the study period in its third year, results from it could be released as early as 2015 or 2016.