The Need for World Alzheimer Month to Boost Awareness of Dementia
Since 2012, several organisations have come together each year to put together a month-long campaign dedicated to raising awareness of Alzheimer’s and dementia around the world. September 21 in World Alzheimer’s Day, with the entire month of September named World Alzheimer’s Month, giving those impacted by the most common type of dementia a chance to share about the disease while offering support to others. Although Alzheimer’s is widely known as a debilitating condition impacting millions of older adults, there is still a misunderstanding of the disease on a broad scale. World Alzheimer’s Day and Month is meant to improve the general population’s knowledge of the far-reaching health condition while increasing funding for research efforts to help find a cure.
If you are interested in participating in this year’s World Alzheimer’s Day, it is beneficial to start with improving knowledge of the disease, how influential the condition is, and why it is so difficult to diagnose and treat.
Understanding Alzheimer’s and Dementia
Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia are often used as interchangeable terms to describe cognitive impairment in older adults. However, Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia, defined as a debilitating neurological disorder in which brain cells die and lead to memory loss and declining brain function. Alzheimer’s makes up between 60 and 80% of all dementia cases, and while the symptoms of the condition are mild to begin, they can take a toll on the individual over time.
Alzheimer’s Disease is a complex health condition because of the issues those diagnosed face during their later years. In many cases, individuals with Alzheimer’s experience two or more of the following issues related to cognitive impairment:
- An inability to process information with ease, leading to misplacing personal belonging or getting lost outside the home
- Trouble with reasoning or exercising judgment which can extend to financial management or taking unsafe risks
- Impaired vision or speech
- An inability to read or write
- Changes in personality, such as wild mood swings, depression, or anxiety
Any combination of these issues may be a warning sign of Alzheimer’s. However, not all cognitive impairment means a diagnosis for the disease is imminent, and in fact, some can be treated when caught early on in the process. For these reasons, getting the right diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or a different medical issue causing cognitive decline is essential.
One of the reasons World Alzheimer’s Month exists is the fact that many individuals with the condition are often misdiagnosed initially. According to a law firm that works with medical negligence claims, two in every ten patients are given the wrong diagnosis when they first present with cognitive impairment symptoms. In some cases, a different medical condition is the true catalyst, and in other cases, Alzheimer’s is overlooked as the cause altogether. When a misdiagnosis takes place, there is little chance for the right treatment plan to be recommended and subsequently followed, which can lead to further health problems and mental decline over time.
A common misdiagnosis among patients with Alzheimer’s is delirium – a quick on-set of cognitive impairment that can be life-threatening. Delirium presents similarly to Alzheimer’s, except that the symptoms of cognitive decline seem to appear without any warning and without any progression. Alzheimer’s, on the other hand, is a slow-moving disease in which issues of mental clarity and functioning present over the course of several months or even years. Delirium may be treated with prescription medication when caught quickly, while Alzheimer’s currently has no cure.
In addition to delirium, Alzheimer’s patients may be thought to have other medical issues that have similar symptoms. A B12 vitamin deficiency is one commonly misdiagnosed problem, as are depression and anxiety, and Parkinson’s Disease. Each of these issues has a different underlying cause, and therefore, a different course of treatment. Without the right diagnosis, individuals are not able to improve their health in either the short- or long-term.
Making a Difference During World Alzheimer’s Month
Taking the time to understand Alzheimer’s Disease as the most common type of dementia, along with recognising the high rate of misdiagnosis among older patients are beneficial steps in improving your own awareness of the condition. During World Alzheimer’s Month, participating on a grander scale is made simple with the help of online and local resources. Through the World Alzheimer’s Month website, information about the condition including posters, bulletins, social media posts, and handouts are available to download at no cost. There are also listings of community events and organistions that could use volunteers throughout the month. Individuals are also encouraged to make a donation to help fund additional research during September and beyond.
Making time to participate in World Alzheimer’s Month is one way to have a positive impact and shed more necessary light on Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia.