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Fighting dementia early may be as simple as asking the patient

Catching age-related illnesses early is often key to combating the debilitating symptoms that often follow. This is certainly true for people suffering from Alzheimer’s and dementia because of how quickly these diseases can manifest and progress as a person ages. But new information presented at the Alzheimer’s Association conference in Boston recently suggests that asking patient’s about their conditions may be the first step to detecting a problem early.

In a number of cases presented at the conference, patients time and time again complained of decreased cognitive function. From memory lapses to problems with thinking skills, in many of the cases, these changes in cognitive function were so subtle that some tests failed to flag the a debilitating disease. But according to doctors, in a majority of the patient’s pathologies, they demonstrated the early signs of a serious disease.

The medical community is now seeing a shift towards what is called “subjective cognitive decline,” or a patient’s own perception of their cognitive state. Doctors are now placing more weight on comments made by patients about memory issues, which is helping to diagnose diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia quicker.

This in turn, as many of our readers here in Texas will agree, offers people a chance to apply for disability benefits earlier. This can be particularly beneficial because these people may have a better chance of sorting out finances before the disease progresses too far. In the end, an early diagnosis may prevent the normal frustrations associated with age-related illnesses such as these.

Source: The Bulletin, "Looking for signs of early dementia? Ask a patient," Pam Belluck, July 19, 2013

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