The stigma of Alzheimer's disease can prevent carers seeking a diagnosis for loved ones, according to a survey reported in the Star-Ledger.
The Alzheimer's Foundation of America study found that 57 per cent of caregivers delayed seeking a diagnosis for family members because of the stigma of the disease or out of fear.
In instances when stigma was the main delaying factor, the average wait between initial suspicions of a family member having developed the disease and actually seeking medical help was six years.
"The problem with our population is they are not breast cancer or cardiovascular disease survivors who can make an appeal to the nation. Many are not able to communicate anymore," Eric Hall, chief executive of the foundation, told the newspaper.
He added that many family caregivers feel abandoned and have problems coping with the "fear and terror" that Alzheimer's brings.
It is thought that one in ten people over 65 suffer from Alzheimer's, rising to half for those over 85.