Your Montana Public Radio
Wed November 27, 2013
Why early diagnosis helps with Alzheimer's
Think of your memory as layers upon layers stacked on top of one another. Registered Nurse Jennifer Crowley specializes in working with patients with Alzheimer’s. Crowley said for people with Alzheimer’s new memories are the top-most layers, and they roll right off and get lost. She conducts Memory Screenings which identify risk for Alzheimer’s and other cognitive impairment disorders. The exam tests short term memory and looks at a person’s understanding of the world around them.
“Are you having trouble recalling conversations from a few days ago, are you finding it difficult to choose the right words or finding the right words to use,” Crowley said some of the warning signs include personality changes, new struggles with routine tasks, getting lost, and depression.
She said fear often keeps people from getting screened.
“I think we all have a fear of being disabled, or not being able to care for ourselves, or being missing from our loved ones lives,” Crowley said.
Early diagnosis is important even though there isn’t yet a cure for Alzheimers. Crowley said several medications exist to delay the onset of some symptoms, and early diagnosis is important to have those difficult conversations with family about future care wants and costs while a person is still capable.
Crowley said the earlier a growing problem is spotted, the more likely the patient will be able to make beneficial lifestyle changes.
“It’s nearly impossible to teach somebody with cognitive impairment anything new. They just can’t form new memories and they have trouble with any new task,” Crowley said.
Exercise for your body and your brain, healthy diet and stress reduction are all recommended to help stave off symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
November is Alzheimer’s awareness month with goals of raising awareness of the disease, supporting caregivers, and urging early diagnosis.
Crowley said right now 5-point-1-million Americans are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and that number is expected to keep growing as the population is ageing.