SPRINGFIELD, Mo – The Alzheimer’s Association will host a panel discussion online on Thursday to share new research, how the pandemic has impacted access to care, and why early detection is crucial for patients and their caretakers.
Recent research has focused on biomarkers, imaging, and possible blood tests to detect dementia early and ways to slow the progression.
The panel is happening at 4 p.m. via Zoom.
It’s free and open to the public, but you do have to register.
You can do so here, and, for more information, you can check out the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Missouri on Facebook.
Dr. Brittany Allen, a neuropsychologist at CoxHealth, says that the brain has already been changing for 15 to 20 years by the time signs and symptoms start showing. That’s one reason why Kristen Hilty, a care consultant with the Alzheimer’s Association, says early diagnosis is vital.
“I hear this from families a lot, ‘it’s just dementia; there’s not a lot we can do. It’s just part of getting older.’ Many people might think, ‘I don’t know for sure that’s what it is.’ Because, I think, many years ago, we weren’t 100 percent positive that someone had Alzheimer’s until they died. But now, physicians can make a diagnosis with about 95 percent accuracy on what type of dementia you have,” Hilty said.
Hilty says you want to get screened to rule out reversible causes of dementia.
Dr. Allen says those can include medication side effects, depression, thyroid function, vitamin b-12 deficiency, and diabetes.
“Those conditions can cause cognitive impairment, but they are very treatable,” she said. “We do know that in the elderly, depression can impact people’s functioning. And, sometimes, they don’t think about how their mood is affecting their functioning. So, if we can get them on treatment for depression, sometimes we see improvement if depression is the issue.”
With early diagnosis, they say families can begin to cope and be involved with care decisions, leading to a better quality of life for both the patient and caretakers.
“Knowing what you’re facing, knowing what your future looks like, gives you a lot of control over the situation,” Hilty said. “So you will be the one making choices and plans for the future. You will be able to tell your family what you want. That’s been proven over and over to me with families. When they come to me early, I feel like the results and the outcome are so much better for those families because they’ve had time to prepare for it.”
Hilty says at the beginning of the pandemic, clinic visits were delayed, but she says most clients are now reporting their appointments are back on track.
“Most clinics are now allowing for one person to go in for an appointment. So, you can go in with a loved one,” she said. “Like all healthcare, it’s all dependent on the amount of spread, but don’t delay because of the pandemic, you important that you get screened.”
While doctors and researchers work to learn more about how and when dementia develops, Dr. Allen says there is something we all can do as far as prevention.
“Anything you can do for the heart is good for the brain,” Dr. Allen says. “So, staying physically active, eating well.”
For more questions or information about Alzheimer’s or dementia, call 1-800-272-3900 or go to Alz.Org/mohelp