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Why is an Alzheimer's diagnosis so difficult?

If Alzheimer's is becoming so much more common, why isn't it easier to diagnose in the beginning stages? Seems to me that if we could diagnose it faster we could begin treatment earlier which even if it doesn't cure it at least improves quality of life.
Status: Open    Jun 16, 2015 - 10:11 AM


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Expert Answers

Jul 08, 2015 - 07:54 AM

I don't think it is clear whether Alzheimer's is more common now or whether it is being diagnosed more accurately since it has been defined and researched. The same can be said for Autism.

The beginning stages of Alzheimer's are very easy to hide, and more importantly - they are very, very easy to dismiss. One thing I have learned in senior living is to never underestimate the power of denial. Most families will look back to the time pre-diagnosis and can talk through all the hints they had that Alzheimer's was beginning. Often, symptoms are explained away because of age, lack of sleep, etc. It's very difficult because, unlike a disease that has a physical presentation, Alzheimer's is hidden in a place that is very hard to peer into.

If you are look for another reason in my experience, the denial extends to the individual who has the disease. A clear mark of dementia is that "you can't remember that you don't remember," and because of this, most seniors reasonably think that they are perfectly well and the person who tells them they have memory loss is crazy.

There are plenty more reasons why diagnosis is difficult, but I hope this gives you some insight on my experience as I talk with families.

APFM Staff Answers

Aug 20, 2015 - 10:59 AM

You may be interested in an article on which discusses Alzheimer’s diagnosis and the steps physicians take to arrive at a diagnosis, How Alzheimer’s is Diagnosed.


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