Remember that early diagnosis does help: image via myhealthbridge.com For the third year in a row, Alzheimer's Disease International (ADI) has issued global recommendations for Alzheimer's patients, medical personnel, and caregivers. The 2011 World Alzheimer's Report focuses on "The benefits of early diagnosis and intervention," and the doctors that publish the report have gone to considerable effort to amass the volume of research that's been conducted in this area.
The best summary of the ADI's recommendations is in the title: early diagnosis and intervention. In the U.S., Britain, and most European countries, medical communities agree with this and are practicing such. But in many other countries of the world, these practices are not followed and Alzheimer's is considered almost a normal part of aging about which nothing can be done.
In Hungary, for example, dementia sufferers are so stigmatized that no one even mentions it to others. Not only relatives and associates are quiet about it, but doctors and mental health professionals carry the prejudice into their practices and rarely diagnose it.
The most important statement for those countries and those families is that something can be done, specifically with appropriate medication (acetylcholinesterase inhibitors), cognitive intervention and, to some degree, physical exercise. Education and support groups are also recommended for the patient as well as the caregivers.
While the report discounts therapies that the authors suggest have not been adequately substantiated, their research was conducted by meta-analysis of studies that may not have been exactly matched to each other. Even the authors state that Alzheimer's research is in its infancy, so it is this writer's belief that the ADI's non-endorsement of a potential treatment is temporary, due to the lack of more extensive evidence.
Along these lines, the ADI defines 'early' diagnosis as when the patient or person close to the patient notices symptoms of Alzheimer's disease. Yes, at the very least. But considerable research has been conducted with technologies, such as MRI, that can alert us, years before the onset of symptoms, that we are candidates for Alzheimer's. Hopefully, in the future, those capabilities will be recommended just as strongly.
While the 2011 World Alzheimer's Report tries to establish minimum guidelines for many countries, one hopes that these yearly reports do not restrict the wealthier, technologically advanced countries from limiting patient access to the best of its care possibilities.
The World Alzheimer Report 2011
The World Alzherimer Report 2011 Executive Summary