Boomerangst: Turning Dilemmas Into Discoveries – Signs of Early Dementia

When is the best time to get help for the early stages of dementia?

Q. My husband is in the early stages of dementia. I took him to our family doctor as soon as possible, who referred him for Alzheimer’s testing and it was confirmed he has early stage symptoms. Since then he’s been put on an anti-depressant and another drug to slow down the disease. I’m wondering when I should call the Alzheimer Society. I’m not at the moment having any trouble, just at times noticing a big sign of memory loss, but not anything really bad. I know it will come eventually. Maybe I should talk to someone sooner rather than later?

Teresa, Kitchener, Ont.

 

A. You and your husband should both be commended for seeking a diagnosis early. “A lot of people put off going to the doctor and then it’s harder for the physician to treat the disease,” says Mary Schulz, Director of Education with the Alzheimer Society of Canada. “Plus, the family is that much further along in terms of distress – and they may have missed opportunities for things that might have helped.”

The best time to contact the Alzheimer Society is now – before you’re in crisis, when you can still think clearly and make decisions.  They’re experts in dementia, whereas you and your husband are living it for the first time.

“We know the hallmarks of the disease and we know the challenges that are coming, so it’s good to get support and start thinking about the practical planning stuff as early as possible,” says Mary. “Doing this will help to put some of your worries aside so you can get on with life.” In other words, don’t wait for those big turning points to jolt you into action.  The Alzheimer Society can help you ask yourselves the right questions and make plans that are best for you.

For example, how far in advance do you need to investigate assisted living options? What financial and legal issues need considering? What community supports are available for the various stages of dementia? How can you still make life meaningful for you both in spite of the disease? What are your end-of-life choices?

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According to the Alzheimer Society, there are currently 747,000 Canadians living with dementia, which is fatal. Caring for them takes a huge toll on family members, who in 2011 spent over 400 million unpaid hours providing care – the equivalent of $11 billion in lost income.

“Nobody wants this disease, but like a lot of things in life it’s how you approach it, how you continue to live your life,” says Mary. “People with dementia can still lead meaningful lives – lives where they contribute and have quality for a long, long time.”

And those who resist asking for help, preferring to handle things on their own – for whatever reason, be it privacy, pride or whatever? “They are making a big, big, big mistake,” insists Mary. “Privacy is not the issue. People have every right to be private, but you’re going to make this disease much harder. It’s so much bigger than any one person. You need information and you need support.”

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Send Diane a brief description of your dilemma, along with your first name and where you live, to [email protected]

A professional journalist for more than 25 years, Diane Sewell has written for some of the top newspapers and magazines in Canada and is a baby boomer herself. Her new blog “Boomerangst: Turning Dilemmas into Discoveries” is interactive with readers and focuses on life issues – like aging, dating, second marriages, sex, death, family and fashion. Diane will use her expertise to find the right expert to help solve your predicament, unearthing kernels of truth and quickly getting to the heart of the issue.