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Alzheimer Society of Canada: Elders Are Dismissing Early Signs of Dementia

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Too many seniors are dismissing the early signs of dementia as "normal aging," according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada. Diagnosing the disease early can potentially delay its progression, as well provide valuable time to help families cope and determine how to care for their loved one over time.

Unfortunately, though, elders and families are waiting too long to ask their doctor about their symptoms, since the warning signs come and go, reported CTV News.

The society's survey of nearly 1,000 caregivers of Alzheimer's patients revealed half of patients waited a year or longer after symptoms began showing before consulting a doctor. Nearly 16 percent waited more than two years.

The most common reason people gave for delaying a doctor's visit was the belief that the symptoms, such as memory issues and confusion, were normal side effects of aging that would eventually subside. Nearly 40 percent of respondents said they did not take the symptoms seriously, because they were not consistent.

CTV News reports that the survey found the most common early symptoms are:

  • Frequent memory loss affecting day-to-day function, such as continually forgetting where the person put things or what they were doing.
  • Disorientation of time and place, including getting lost even in familiar places or not knowing what month or year it is.
  • Changes in personality or acting out of character, such as becoming suspicious, fearful or confused.

"We found that once people understood the benefits (of early diagnosis), 75 per cent said they wished they had gone to see their doctors sooner," Alzheimer Society CEO Naguib Gouda told Canada AM.

While there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, medications can slow the disease's progression and are most effective in the earliest stages of the illness. "The earlier you have access to the drugs that are available… the more likely these drugs are to help manage your symptoms and potentially even slow down the progression of the disease," says Gouda.

Read more about "Alzheimer's Early Signs."