As we age, some minor cognitive decline is normal – we forget to put out the garbage, or we can’t find the word we’re looking for in a conversation. However, the serious decrease in cognitive and executive function that occurs with dementia is not normal. These symptoms affect individuals much more than the occasional “senior moment,” interfering with daily life and various tasks.
Unfortunately, the early signs of dementia can be mistaken for typical signs of getting older. Alison Wall, Senior Living Consultant at TreVista Antioch, an assisted living and memory care community in Antioch, CA, says, “Some individuals experiencing the early signs of dementia may shrug them off as normal for their age. At first, symptoms may not be so severe. Others might not even fully understand all the signs of the disease. If someone views dementia as restricted to memory issues alone, they will fail to categorize other symptoms, such as trouble concentrating, difficulty following directions or mood swings, as dementia.”
To answer the question asked in our title: yes. A recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore found that approximately six out of 10 Medicare recipients with dementia were either undiagnosed or entirely unaware of their diagnosis.
“These findings aren’t as shocking as one might think,” says Wall. “According to the Alzheimer’s Association®, about half of the seniors with dementia go undiagnosed.”
The recent study reiterates the issues surrounding dementia diagnoses and begs the question why so many go without a proper diagnosis. While we can only speculate some of the reasons, we can do our best to lower the numbers of those without awareness of their disease.
Reasons for the Undiagnosed
Because every case of dementia can be unique, we cannot give definitive reasons for every case. However, the authors of the Johns Hopkins University study have some ideas. Among those seniors who were undiagnosed or unaware of their dementia, many of them had low education rates of less than a high school diploma. These individuals were likely unaware of all the symptoms of their disease. However, even highly educated individuals can share the same levels of unawareness.
Another factor the study gleaned was that those undiagnosed went to their doctor’s appointments alone. Many seniors who experience problems with memory loss may think it’s normal or deny that their problems are as bad as they are. If a partner or adult child had been with them and the doctor, they might have been able to disclose issues that the individual didn’t think (or want) to mention.
A third reason could be that among those undiagnosed, their symptoms were just emerging and not yet severe enough to cause concern. They may only have experienced symptoms here and there, or under circumstances of stress. If their symptoms were not yet serious enough to cause alarm, the individual may not think to ask for a screening, and a doctor may not notice any symptoms during the visit.
Getting an Early Diagnosis
Without a proper diagnosis, it’s impossible to plan for care. Many seniors with dementia aren’t diagnosed until their symptoms are so severe that their quality of life has significantly diminished. However, an early diagnosis can allow seniors and their families to plan accordingly for future care – before the problem is so bad as to force their hand with care decisions. And, while there’s still no cure for dementia, those diagnosed early can take steps with their health and pharmaceutical treatment to hopefully slow the progression of the disease.
So how can we ensure that those we love aren’t living with dementia without a diagnosis? At TreVista Antioch, we have a few ideas:
- Know the Signs – As we mentioned, dementia is more than memory loss alone. Learn the early signs of the disease and see the doctor if you or a loved one experience any of them enough to interfere with daily life.
- Pay Attention – Be on the lookout for unusual behaviors or new habits in your older loved ones. They may not recognize or deny their symptoms, so it may be up to you to determine whether there’s cause for concern.
- Have Regular Screenings – Unless you’re totally confident in your cognitive health, it can’t hurt to have a regular screening done by a medical professional. Especially if dementia runs in your family, being on the alert can help you or a loved one get diagnosed as soon as possible.
- Take Care of Your Brain – While there’s no way to guarantee prevention, there are ways to reduce your risk of developing the disease. Keep your mind sharp by staying socially active and doing activities that stimulate your cognition. Also be sure to get plenty of sleep, eat a healthy diet and try to reduce stress as much as possible.
We’re Here to Help
Dementia is a serious disease, and uncertainty about your or a loved one’s diagnosis is certainly a stressful situation. At TreVista Antioch, we understand. We’re glad to support dozens of families going through the trials and challenges involved with a dementia diagnosis, and we’re always here to help you.
If you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of dementia, see your doctor right away. And if you’d like to learn more about dementia awareness and education, reach out to the TreVista Antioch team. We’d be happy to share information and help you and your family stay as healthy as possible.
Making the everyday extraordinary.
Family-owned and operated, Agemark Senior Living is the new owner of TreVista Antioch. Known for creating warm, welcoming communities, vibrant lifestyles and engaging programming, Agemark has been one of the most premier and trusted senior living providers since 1987. As Agemark’s newest community, TreVista Antioch is located on 10 acres in a prime location close to shopping and local attractions, as well as the great outdoors. Our beautiful community features a personalized, resident-centric approach to care that provides support, all while helping residents live full, connected lives.
At TreVista Antioch, we provide assisted living and memory care set in a beautiful environment that not only meets our residents’ needs but makes them, as well as their families, feel more at home. Although our gorgeous community is a plus, we truly believe it’s our programming and caring, dedicated staff that makes TreVista home. With our family-oriented inspiration and resident-centric approach, our residents flourish and experience days full of joy and meaning. Our staff learns each resident’s likes and dislikes and their values and pasts, right down to the dreams they never thought they could accomplish, in order to customize their care and make their dreams a reality.
LifeCycles wellness programming encourages our residents to connect, engage and enjoy life, every day. Our LifeCycles programming is designed to focus on the four dimensions of wellness: physical, social, spiritual and intellectual. This is achieved through a wide range of daily activities and routines, from outings and excursions to local events and programming at the community. At TreVista Antioch, our residents have the tools and care they need to make each day fulfilling, engaging and vibrant. Contact us to learn more!
Call us at 925•237•1952 for more information or to schedule a personal visit today.
TreVista Antioch is part of the Agemark family of senior living communities.