Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease Offers Many Benefits

The Alzheimer’s Association together with advocates in the early stages of the disease is encouraging families to talk about memory and cognition concerns sooner. These advocates know first-hand that an early diagnosis offers many benefits, including access to more effective medical and lifestyle interventions and the ability to take an active role in planning with family members for the future.

For Bob Fitzpatrick of North Ridgeville part of that journey forward is participation in the Alzheimer’s Association Cleveland Area Chapter’s early stage group that meets in Westlake. “My impressions of the group is that they are so open and honest. We were made most welcome,” he said.

Fitzpatrick, who has early-onset vascular dementia, said he and wife, Jan, moved back to Northeast Ohio from Illinois and have been to about five early stage meetings so far. At first “I was leery about what we were getting into,” he said. But at the first meeting, attendees “made me feel comfortable,” he said.

Most importantly, Fitzpatrick said, because of the group, “I have no qualms telling anybody I have dementia. It’s the confidence I’ve gained from the group, he added.

Referrals to an early stage group occur through contacting the 24/7 Helpline at 800.272.3900, or by a care consultant, or by contacting lscharf@alz.org or 216.342.5612.

Whether you are in the process of being diagnosed or have been recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or a related disorder, the Alzheimer’s Association is the leader in providing care, support, education and engagement opportunities for people with memory and thinking disorders and their families.

The early stage groups are an opportunity for individuals with mild memory and thinking disorders to participate in services specially designed for their needs and interests including group meetings, social gatherings, staff consultations, education seminars, and enrichment programs. The group environment naturally provides an opportunity to connect with others in similar circumstances.

The 90-minute monthly meetings feature an educational topic.  Participants are divided into two groups: an engagement and discussion group for those diagnosed with memory and thinking disorders and an education and support group for family/friends.  You will be able to participate in the ongoing meetings as along as the program is an appropriate fit for both participants.

Find a complete list of all caregiver support groups in the chapter’s five-county service area here.


Tips for Getting a Conversation Started

To help people understand early symptoms of Alzheimer’s or behaviors that merit discussion, the Alzheimer’s Association offers 10 Warning Signs. Should these signs appear, it is important to talk about them with person experiencing symptoms and encourage them to speak with a medical professional.

“Unfortunately, people often avoid conversations due to stigma and perceptions associated with Alzheimer’s. We know that denial, fear, anxiety, lack of awareness and difficulty having hard conversations about health issues, particularly dementia, are some of the reasons people avoid bringing up concerns about Alzheimer’s with family members,” said Nancy Udelson, President and CEO, Cleveland Area Chapter.

 New findings from an Alzheimer’s Association survey found a majority of Americans would be concerned about offending a family member (76 percent), or ruining their relationship (69 percent), if they were to approach that person about observed signs of Alzheimer’s. More alarming, 38 percent said they would wait until a family member’s Alzheimer’s symptoms worsened before approaching them with concerns. Additionally, nearly 1 in 3 Americans (29 percent) would not say anything to a family member despite their concerns.

To help families overcome common communication obstacles, the Alzheimer’s Association is offering 6 Tips for Approaching Alzheimer’s, a list of best practices for talking about the disease with someone who may be experiencing symptoms. These include:

  • Have the conversation as early as possible
  • Think about who’s best suited to have the conversation
  • Practice conversation starters
  • Offer support and companionship
  • Anticipate gaps in self-awareness
  • Recognize the conversation may not go as planned

For m0re on these tips, go to alz.org/6Tips.

 Bob Fitzpatrick, a retired pastor, said his confidence in speaking about his dementia has led to a better relationship with his doctor including being more comfortable sharing how he’s feeling.

The Alzheimer’s Association Cleveland Area Chapter helps families and friends navigate challenges and considerations at each stage of the disease, through face-to-face conversations with experts, our free 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900) and comprehensive support and resources on alz.org.

 About the Alzheimer’s Association

The Alzheimer’s Association is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer’s ®. Visit alz.org or call 800.272.3900.