New research finds that one in four people with dementia struggles with symptoms for more than two years before being diagnosed.
Signs of the condition — a syndrome associated with persistent deterioration in brain function, which has many different causes, and many different types — are often overlooked as mere aging, according to an Alzheimer’s Association study.
But the condition is not a normal part of aging, and it can affect memory, thinking or language, and changes in mood, emotions, cognition, and behavior.
As part of its ‘Don’t Get Old, Call It Disease’ campaign, which launched Dementia Action Week, the charity has produced a new checklist in collaboration with top doctors, including the Royal College of General Practitioners. (RCGP) To help people identify its possible symptoms and diagnosis.
The paper—which can be printed out and taken to the doctor to help both patients and clinicians have an easier diagnosis experience—includes a set of tick box questions, with options for “tick if affected by,” “tick if it affects daily life” and “ How long has it been happening?”
Read more: Daily brisk walking or cycling ‘may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease for older adults’
The first section, “Memory and Mental Capacity Problems,” includes options for “struggling to find the right word,” “difficulty judging distances or confusing reflections or patterns of other things,” or “struggling to make decisions, making careless decisions or Risky.” “Loss of keeping track of time and dates”, “Ask the same question again, or repeating phrases” and “Putting things in unusual places”.
Next, “Problems with activities of daily living,” lists “difficulty performing tasks such as paying bills, planning ahead and shopping,” “difficulty getting enough sleep,” and “getting lost in familiar places” as possible answers.
Others for mood and behavior problems include “easy irritability, irritability, or aggression,” “depressive symptoms, such as feeling sad or hopeless,” “anxiety symptoms, such as feeling very anxious or restless,” or “withdrawal or restless.” . Loss of interest in things you previously enjoyed”, “acting inappropriately or out of character” and “being upset and walking around”.
There is also space to take notes about symptoms or other concerns, hearing problems and vision problems.
Read more: A study reveals that these are the key contracts to getting fit if you want to stave off dementia
The Alzheimer’s Association’s survey of more than 1,000 people with dementia, caregivers, and people without a diagnosis found that confusing dementia symptoms with ageing (42%) was the number one reason people took so long to get a diagnosis.
A quarter (26%) of people with dementia in the UK live with the condition for more than two years after first noticing their symptoms before getting a diagnosis, with only a quarter of those seeking one, or receiving one, because they have reached a crisis point. .
This includes two-thirds of them struggling to take care of themselves (64%), half finding it very difficult to cope (51%), and a third having an accident (33%) before they seek help.
Read more: 10 of the funniest quotes from Mrs. Barbara Windsor
“Asking the same question over and over is not called getting old, it’s called disease,” says Kate Lee, executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association.
“If you’re worried about yourself or someone you love, take the first step in your dementia workweek — come to the Alzheimer’s Association for support.
“The stark results of our survey today show how dangerous it is to fight dementia symptoms alone and put off getting help.
Lee admits that the diagnosis can be daunting. “I know I was terrified when my mother was diagnosed. But it was worth it—more than 9 in 10 people with dementia told us they benefited from a diagnosis—it gave them important access to treatment, care, and support, and valuable time to plan ahead,” she says.
“With the pandemic causing diagnostic rates to drop, it is more important than ever to seek help. You don’t have to face dementia alone, we are here to support all affected.”
More than 200,000 people will develop dementia this year, which equates to one person every three minutes. But with diagnosis rates dropping to a five-year low, the charity warns that tens of thousands of people are now living with undiagnosed dementia without the access to the vital care and support a diagnosis can bring.
“It is essential for patients, their families, and GPs that conversations with potential for dementia diagnoses are appropriate and effective,” adds Dr. Jill Rasmussen, clinical representative of dementia at the RCGP.
“The new Checklist developed with the Alzheimer’s Association is a simple, free tool to help patients and their families clearly articulate their symptoms and concerns during an often time-stressed appointment. This resource can make a real difference in identifying who needs a referral. A more detailed assessment and diagnosis of their problems.
“We ask anyone concerned about possible dementia symptoms to use the checklist and share it with their primary care team.”
While it may be normal for memory to be affected by stress, fatigue, certain illnesses and medications, if you become more forgetful (especially if you’re over 65) it’s a good idea to talk to a GP about early signs of dementia.
The Alzheimer’s Association urges anyone concerned about themselves or anyone who would love to take the first step and contact the charity for support. Support and more information about diagnosis is just a phone call or a click away. Visit alzheimers.org.uk/memoryloss or call 0333150 3456.
See our full checklist for possible dementia symptoms.
Watch: Rugby union star opens up about dementia battle