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.
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.”