Many people are hesitant to see a doctor even if they suspect that they may have dementia. This hesitation is completely understandable. However, receiving an early diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s is beneficial in many ways and will give you and your family time to adequately plan for all the stages of the disease.
Denial Is Not a Good Strategy
It’s easy to tell yourself that your memory loss and mood swings are just a normal part of aging. Most adults in the early stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia are functional and can maintain a normal life, so it may not seem important to get a diagnosis even if you have been struggling to remember birthdays and simple words.
This resistance is understandable. No one ever wants to find out that they have Alzheimer’s or dementia. There are also plenty of logical reasons not to get a diagnosis, such as:
- Since these conditions can’t be cured anyway, what is the point in learning if I have it?
- Won’t a diagnosis only upset everyone in my family?
- Why would I want to live with the burden of knowing that I’ll slowly lose my memory and personality any longer than I have to?
These are reasonable points, but there are important reasons to seek out a diagnosis as early as possible.
Time to Prepare Yourself and Your Family Emotionally
The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia is an incredible emotional blow to a family. It can take a lot of time to process this information and come to terms with it. That will be difficult to do if you are already in the second stage of the disease and need a high level of care.
Time to Make Plans for Your Care
Since dementia and Alzheimer’s are currently incurable, you will need increasing levels of supervision and care as the disease progresses. You don’t want to put that burden on a loved one or family member unexpectedly. With an early diagnosis, you will have time to work with your family to decide important questions like whether a family member will step in as a primary caretaker or if you would prefer to go to a memory care facility when the time comes.
Ability to Put Your Affairs in Order
If someone in your family has passed away unexpectedly without performing any estate planning, you know how difficult and expensive it can be to do even basic things like catalogue their possessions and go through probate. If you catch your diagnosis early enough, you can give yourself enough time to update important documents like your Power of Attorney, your Healthcare Power of Attorney, and your will. You may also want to make big changes, like sell your home or put your assets into a trust for your family.
No one likes thinking about estate planning, but putting a clear plan in place can be incredibly helpful to your family members when you can no longer speak for yourself during a health emergency and after you pass away.
Medication and Drug Trials
While there is no cure for dementia and Alzheimer’s, certain drugs have been approved to ease symptoms of the disease, including anxiety and depression. The longer you wait for your diagnosis, the longer you deprive yourself of medication that may help you feel better and have a higher quality of life.
Additionally, there are numerous pharmaceutical companies actively looking for drug trial participants related to Alzheimer’s and dementia. These trials may lead to a medication that can slow the progression of the disease, stop it, or even cure it. Most of these drug trials need patients who are in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s, but these patients can be hard to find. Aside from possibly benefiting personally from the latest and greatest science being done in the field, your participation could help millions of other who will be diagnosed in the future.
More Quality Time with Your Friends and Family
Knowing that you have an incurable disease will put your life into stark perspective. While it’s easy to think of all the negatives that come with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia, there is also a silver lining. Now is the time to spend quality time with your children, grandchildren, best friends, neighbors, and spouse. If you’ve been holding onto any grudges, it’s time to forgive them. Maybe your diagnosis will inspire you to create mementos that you have been putting off, like handwritten letters to each of your grandchildren or a video diary about your life that you can give your children. If you’ve been meaning to read that book everyone’s been talking about or watch that movie, there’s no reason to wait.
More importantly, waiting for a diagnosis will steal away your ability to plan for the future and make sure you address your illness and care the way you want. Without proper planning, you may leave your family members confused about what you would have wanted or how to care for you. You may also never get to say the words to your loved ones that have always been in your heart.
So, if you suspect that your memory loss might be more than just age, don’t hide from the truth and avoid the doctor. Make an appointment to receive the information you need to face the future with dignity and grace.
If you are feeling scared or uncertain about the possibility of an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis, we invite you to our free caregiver support group. In the support group, you can speak to caregivers and better plan for what’s to come.
Categories: Memory Care