As many as 50 per cent of Canadians with dementia are not diagnosed early enough, and that means many Sunshine Coast residents living with dementia are losing precious time when care and support can make a tremendous difference in their quality of life.
Kerri Sutherland, support and education coordinator for the Alzheimer Society of B.C. for the North Shore and Sunshine Coast said an early diagnosis can also avert unnecessary crises for their families.
There's a growing urgency to the message, as more than 70,000 British Columbians already live with Alzheimer's disease or another dementia -a number that is set to double within the next 25 years as Baby Boomers age. And almost three-quarters of Canadians know someone living with Alzheimer's disease or another dementia.
"A diagnosis of dementia and Alzheimer's disease can be devastating, but it can also bring relief," said Sutherland. "Early diagnosis keeps your life from unravelling." Some people with dementia believe that very little can be done for them. Yet early diagnosis can bring a measure of relief and help them take control of their lives.
"Support after diagnosis helps them gain perspective on their circumstances, fears, beliefs," she said.
Earlier diagnosis also opens the door to important local information, resources and support through the society, which helps people with dementia focus on their abilities to remain independent in their homes and communities longer.
With early diagnosis, people can access medications that, although not effective for everyone, have the greatest impact when taken early.
"On a practical level, an early diagnosis gives someone the chance to explain the changes happening in their life to family and friends and allows families to plan ahead," Sutherland said.
Seeing a doctor for diagnosis can also rule out other treatable conditions, such as thyroid disease, infections, and side effects of medications, which sometime mimic dementia symptoms or behaviours.
Fear and stigma continue to be huge barriers to seeking help. In a recent Nanos survey, 60 per cent of Canadians polled said it would be harder to disclose if they, or someone close to them, had Alzheimer's disease compared with other diseases because of the social stigma associated with mental health issues.
The society is working to break down those barriers, through a variety of programs and services.
For more information contact Sutherland at 604-984-8348, toll-free at 1-866-984-8348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
And to learn how to spot the signs of dementia, understand the benefits of a diagnosis and prepare for a doctor's visit, visit www.earlydiagnosis.ca.
© Coast Reporter