A senior man smiling, holding a laughing baby in the air

Every September, Alzheimer’s Disease International acknowledges and raises awareness about Alzheimer’s — one very commonly referenced type of Dementia. This September, the theme of their campaign is “Never too early, never too late” — with a mission to educate the public about the risk factors associated with Alzheimer’s, alongside some risk reduction techniques.

Hearing of a Dementia diagnosis — whether for yourself or a loved one — can trigger a series of emotions, including distress, anger, frustration, helplessness, and beyond. But it can also bring about an unexpected, albeit bittersweet, feeling of gratitude.

While it’s indeed absolutely never too late, it’s also never too early to learn of a Dementia diagnosis. Here, we will broach an often-overlooked subject — the benefits of an early diagnosis of Dementia and how it can improve the quality of life for the person living with a type of the disease.

First, it’s important to know how Dementia is diagnosed and why someone might receive an early diagnosis when others are left in the dark.

How Dementia Is Commonly Diagnosed

Dementia is a general term used to classify several diseases that affect a person’s brain, resulting in challenges with memory, language and communication skills, aptitude for problem-solving, physical abilities, and eventually, their capacity to perform everyday activities safely.

There is no single test for Dementia. Instead, doctors will look at an individual’s medical records and medical history and assess changes in cognitive abilities and behaviours. In some cases, they’ll observe how daily tasks are managed and will run medical tests, including sleep tests and physical exams.

This portfolio of information will guide professionals in formulating their diagnoses.

The Challenges in Diagnosing Dementia

Many factors impede an early and accurate diagnosis. For one, there are 400 different types of the disease.

Different types of Dementia require different forms of detection. Sometimes, it can be difficult to diagnose Dementia accurately in its early stages due to the various symptoms that each type of the disease presents and because symptoms will vary between individuals.

Frontotemporal Dementia, for example, usually first presents behaviourally, leading some people to be erroneously diagnosed with extreme depression or schizophrenia.

Whereas diagnosing Vascular Dementia is often done by brain scans when the person has reported a mild to moderate decline in cognitive ability, like being unable to make proper plans or participate in organizing activities, or forgetting the routine payment of a monthly phone bill.

Despite this variability, receiving an early diagnosis is a possibility. As the medical community strengthens their understanding of the disease, making early identification more likely, it’s equally as crucial for people to know how to identify the warning signs of Dementia themselves. Doing so will significantly boost the potential for an early diagnosis should you or a loved one begin to exhibit symptoms.

A white senior lady in a pastel green kitchen, she's wearing an apron washing a carrot over a sink

The Early Signs of Dementia

As discussed, the symptoms and signs of Dementia will vary based on the person and on the type of the disease. However, some common symptoms may help you identify the early warning signs of Dementia; these include.

  • Challenges with problem solving.
  • Memory loss.
  • Personality changes and changes with mood.
  • Withdrawal from social activities.

If you’ve noticed any of these symptoms in yourself, a friend, family member or partner, talking with a family doctor is key because receiving an early diagnosis can greatly improve that person’s quality of life in a wide variety of ways.

Read on for a deeper understanding of the benefits of early diagnosis of Dementia.

An Early Diagnosis May Provide Relief

It might be unusual to assume someone would find relief in a Dementia diagnosis; nevertheless, it’s often good to get a solid answer to unusual or distressing behaviours. Knowing precisely what the problem is can help the person living with a type of the disease, and their family, friends and loved ones.

Once the initial shock has tempered or worn off, individuals and their support network are better equipped and empowered to move forward with a proactive attitude.

It Opens the Doors to Treatment

While there’s presently no cure for Dementia, there are treatments that can lessen the degree of the symptoms and their frequency. Early awareness and diagnosis will give more time to learn about the treatments available in the field. They also allow the person to partake in treatments and therapies over a more extended period of time, which can beneficially impact their efficacy.

Factors That May Exacerbate the Disease Can Be Curbed

An early diagnosis allows the person living with a type of the disease to curtail potentially unhealthy habits that may exacerbate the symptoms of Dementia. Early diagnoses also help people embrace positive lifestyle adjustments — like those mentioned below — which may delay some Dementia symptoms.

A Healthy Diet

A healthy diet benefits us all — regardless of age — for both our physical and mental health. Studies have shown that diets that are low in red meats and artificial sugars while high in cereal, fruit and vegetables may help reduce the risk of Dementia. It’s also been found that being overweight in midlife has been tied to a heightened risk of developing a type of the disease.

A healthy diet is incredibly beneficial following a diagnosis, too. Learning of an early Dementia diagnosis means a nutritious, balanced, and healthier diet can be embraced sooner. This boost in beneficial foods will help to stave off the illness; it will also provide our bodies with much-needed energy. A healthy diet is essential if we want our bodies and minds to function capably.

Foods that may prove beneficial to those living with Dementia include berries and dark chocolate, which contain healthy antioxidants that have been found to improve brain function. Leafy greens, like kale and Swiss chard, may reduce the decline of the nervous system in Seniors.

Food is a major facet of our at-home Dementia Care service. Our team of health care professionals can help our Clients with meal planning and cooking. We understand that food isn’t just fuel; for many, it’s a joyous moment in the day that should be relished and savoured.

Sleeping Well

There’s a correlation between poor sleep and irritability, frustration, restlessness and even moments of forgetfulness or mental haziness for those living with Dementia. A poor night’s sleep can even make the person clumsier, increasing the propensity for slips or trips.

This might seem like a minor issue, but it’s also a significant answer when people ask, ‘why is early diagnosis of Dementia important?’ Knowing that one is living with a disease like Dementia means that they can take time towards effective sleep hygiene, ensuring that they’re setting themselves up as best they can for a good night’s rest and improved quality of life.

A white senior man in green spotted pjs, stretching in bed

Physical Exercise

Taking the time for light physical exercise can improve our temperament, help refine our motor skills, and help us get a better night’s sleep.

In addition to boosting our mood and our quality of sleep, which we now know is important for those living with Dementia, gentle physical exercise can also help reduce the bouts of anxiety and stress that one may feel.

Exercise also helps with some of the potential physical symptoms of Dementia: a loss of muscle mass and a corresponding loss of strength, and a loss of balance. Taking the time to strengthen joints and muscles can help prevent minor accidents, like a slip or trip, which extends the ability to live independently for longer. Receiving an early diagnosis means that more time can be given to routine exercise that can help maintain muscle strength and dexterity.

Research has also found that physical exercise can also slow some stages of Dementia that are associated with mental decline.

Gentle physical exercise may include:

  • A daily 20-minute walk.
  • Gardening.
  • Tai Chi.
  • Yoga.
  • Golf.
  • Swimming.

Mental Exercise

In addition to physical exercise, learning of an early Dementia diagnosis allows more dedicated time each day for mental activity. Studies show that factoring in time for cognitive training will help to keep the brain stimulated, and it can slow the progression of Dementia in the later stages of the disease.

Mental exercise might include:

  • Playing games like chess, crosswords, and jigsaws.
  • Learning a language.
  • Challenging your brain by learning something entirely new to you, like Sudoku.
  • Playing an instrument.
  • • Meditating.

While mental exercise won’t prevent Dementia, it can help to keep the mind sharper and working more effectively for longer. A prolonged mental aptitude will greatly improve quality of life for those living with Dementia as it empowers them to live safely and independently for longer.

Socializing

As we mentioned above, withdrawing from social activity can be one of the early symptoms of Dementia. Knowing that this can be attributed to Dementia may empower the person to continue onwards with the usual social activities they enjoy, significantly contributing to normalcy and happiness.

All too often, those living with Dementia can become depressed. Socializing can help buoy brain health while boosting the mood of participants. Further, connecting with friends and participating in regular hobbies (and socializing in general) has been shown to slow the progression of cognitive decline in some cases.

A senior man up close getting a shot in the arm from a healthcare practitioner

Medical Care Can Take the Spotlight

While taking care of your health is always important, this is especially true for those who have received a Dementia diagnosis. Knowing that you’re living with a type of the disease will ensure that measures can be taken to keep pre-existing health issues in check, preventing them from worsening. It can also help prevent new issues from presenting themselves.

Health problems can make Dementia progress faster than it would otherwise. Taking time for health care may include:

  • Attending regular health checks, including optometric and hearing appointments.
  • Receiving preventative medications, like seasonal flu injections.
  • Paying closer attention to taking prescribed medications.

Early Diagnosis Provides a Say in Care

One of the most important benefits of an early diagnosis is that it allows the person living with a type of the disease to have a say in their care. It lets them take control of their future and work with loved ones to formulate a plan that works best for them.

Care can be multifaceted. Being able to decide what works best for the individual is crucial. It empowers control over life, even when everything else might seem out of their hands.

We can work with you to create a care plan that works best for you and your unique needs that adapts as the disease evolves. With our team, there’s one consistent factor that you can count on: the highest quality of care will always be provided by educated, highly trained, thoroughly screened, and compassionate Caregivers.

Here at Integracare Home Care, we take time to partner our certified Caregivers with their Clients based on two important factors: their medical needs and a match of personalities. One of our Registered Nurses will also check in to make sure that our Caregivers are still well matched to their Clients at every step.

Control of Familiar Surroundings Is Retained

There are profound benefits of a Dementia-friendly environment. While rearranging and restructuring a living environment might seem minor, for someone living with a type of Dementia, being able to participate in the changes that help to foster a Dementia-safe space can go a great way towards alleviating stress and upset at a later date.

For some, seeing a beloved family home being reconstructed beyond the familiar can be upsetting. So, being able to partake in implementing these alterations, even if they’re largely minor adjustments, can help the person living with Dementia feel like they still have control over their home.

Legal Steps Can Be Made

A major cause of stress throughout our lives at any time is finances. Receiving an early diagnosis of Dementia gives people time to gain professional advice and to take steps to get their finances organized as they’d like.

For many, knowing that their finances and legal orders are all in check can provide a sense of relief and comfort — those living with the disease will likely no longer feel as though they’re burdening family members or loved ones with the responsibility.

At-Home Health Care

We offer a sliding scale of home care services for Seniors and people who are living with Dementia, supporting you and your loved one at every stage.

We firmly believe that aging at home can significantly improve the quality of life for people living with Dementia, and with help from our team of educated Caregivers, we can help you make this happen. This can begin with companionship and guidance as symptoms start and then modify into more permanent health care as needs evolve.

If you or someone you know has received an early Dementia diagnosis, or a diagnosis during the later stages of the disease, connect with us today to learn more about how we can support you best.