Alzheimer’s myths cause delay in diagnoses

Alzheimer’s myths cause delay in diagnoses

A number of common misconceptions about Alzheimer’s disease are causing patients to delay getting diagnosed, according to experts. There are six myths that are particularly worrisome to those in the early stages of the condition, which put them off going to the doctor.

The top concerns are that they will not be able to drive, have to give up work and lose their memory immediately. While it can be tough to face up to a future with dementia, there is no cure and current treatments work best when it is caught early on in the progression, before many symptoms have emerged.

Other worries include friends and family treating them differently, other people managing their money and an inability to make decisions. In the light of this, doctors are keen to reassure patients that they can continue with their normal lives at least in the immediate future.

Dementia UK runs a helpline for those worried about the condition, both pre and post diagnosis. It released the questions that are most often asked of its nurses when people ring up, as it hopes to raise more awareness of the issues and reality.

Some 50 million across the world have dementia and Alzheimer’s is the most common form of the condition, representing between 60 and 70 per cent of cases. Proteins in the brain build up over time and damage connections between the nerves. This kills off sections of the organ and gets progressively worse, making timely diagnosis vital.

But Paul Edwards, clinical director at Dementia UK, told the Daily Mail: “There is a lot of fear and uncertainty about Alzheimer’s disease. Many people actually put off getting a diagnosis because they are worried about having to immediately give up work or stop driving.

“But every diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is as different as the person who receives it. Many people are able to continue working, driving and living full and productive lives after a diagnosis. Indeed, getting that diagnosis means getting the advice from your GP and access to the specialist support which can enable people with dementia to retain their independence for as long as possible.”

It depends on when they get diagnosed, but there are some cases of people living with Alzheimer’s for 20 years before it becomes dementia. That is two decades of continuing to live a full life, with the treatments and support required.

Here are the six most common questions that are asked to nurses on the Dementia UK helpline that simply aren’t true:

1.       Will I have to stop driving immediately?
2.       Will I need to give up work?
3.       Will my family and friends treat me like a different person?
4.       Will I be unable to make decisions for myself?
5.       Will somebody else have to manage my money?
6.       Will I lose my memory straight away?