Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is a devastating condition. The AD community has long been dedicated to finding a cure while improving diagnosis and care practices. The latest research on AD focuses on early detection.
“She’s been this way for a while, but it’s getting worse.”
New Research Brings a New Understanding
Your loved one’s physician may have discussed AD with you as having early, mid, and late-stage behaviors. Recently, though, researchers are suggesting physicians change the way they describe AD.
This new approach aims to help physicians be more pro-active in developing early care plans for patients of AD. The Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke recommend the new vocabulary be used to describe the three progressive stages as either preclinical, mild cognitive impairment, or dementia due to Alzheimer’s.
Biomarker tests can detect changes in the brain that identify the likelihood that AD will develop. Introducing the preclinical stage allows physicians to suggest your loved one begin treatment for AD even before symptoms like memory loss occur. In fact, researchers think Preclinical AD may actually be detected up to 20 years before the symptoms of MCI start to happen.
In the new terminology, symptoms appear in the second stage, MCI, and remain mild but measurable.
Unfortunately, this new research has not yet supplied tools for doctors to diagnose preclinical AD. Beyond the biomarker testing, which may only be ordered if there is a strong family history and a reason to suspect AD has already been triggered, most patients will continue to be diagnosed once deterioration has already begun.
Still, this terminology change represents a progressive, pro-active approach to diagnoses and ultimately, researchers hope, prevention.
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You are not Alone!
“I just can’t believe this. What are we going to do?”
After the devastation of diagnosis and the overwhelming prospect of creating a care plan, family and caregivers often struggle with their own roles in the progression of a loved one’s AD.
Families have questions: How much time should we spend with our loved one? What about our jobs? What about our young children? Who should be helping and how much should they give?
It is estimated that 5.4 million Americans are living with AD. The baby boom generation could add an additional 10 million people to the number of patients in the next ten years. Add to that the more than 15 million family members and other unpaid caregivers and you have an enormous population affected by this disease.
Caregivers spent upwards of 17 billion hours giving their time, their attention, and their lives to this progressive and debilitating disease in 2011.
You have options. Your family and community can support you by helping you make the right choices in care for your loved one.