In a 2014 report, the Alzheimer’s Association stated that someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer’s every 67 seconds and that currently, 5.2 million people in the U.S. are living with Alzheimer’s. The Alzheimer’s disease Facts and Figures report also stated that 500,000 people die every year because they have the condition. Because the disease progresses slowly and begins so mildly, it becomes easy for friends and family to deny it and for the person to push symptoms to the back of one’s mind or try to explain them away.
The first step, and the most important one, is for everyone involved to overcome their denial and consult a physician. People often think there is no need for a diagnosis because there is no cure for the disease, however, symptoms could be from another condition that is treatable. “Many conditions can mimic Alzheimer’s, including vitamin deficiencies (such as folic acid, niacin or vitamins B-1, B-6 or B-12), normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH), depression, urinary tract infections, an underactive thyroid, and reactions to certain drugs,” according to an article by Dr. Oz and Dr. Michael Roizen.
The Alzheimer’s Association also lists the advantages of early detection as: “1) You can explore treatments that may provide some relief of symptoms and help you maintain a level of independence longer, 2) A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s allows you to take part in decisions about care, transportation, living options, financial and legal matters, and 3) Care and support services are available, making it easier for you and your family to live the best life possible with Alzheimer’s.”
The next step is to now get the person to go see a doctor, but unfortunately, most flat out refuse to go. Try getting a good friend to speak with them, since hearing it from someone other than a primary caregiver may help. The Alzheimer’s Association St. Louis Chapter suggest several things, including, “Seize the opportunity. Suggest a check-up if your loved one expresses any concern about ‘not remembering things lately.’ You could explain that there are new medications that may help with memory, but they must be prescribed by a doctor.”
Those with more advanced symptoms may be less able to have a discussion about it. “Tell the person you have a doctor’s appointment and ask them to go with you. This of course would have to be prearranged so the physician would know the real reason for the visit,” suggests Carol Steinberg, then Executive Vice President of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. Another idea presented by the Alzheimer’s Association Northern California and Northern Nevada Chapter is to, “write down concerns and observations and mail them to the person’s physician. Then you could suggest they call that person for an appointment based on something else in their medical history.” It is noted that the doctor may not follow through, but it may be worth a try.
As a last resort the St. Louis Alzheimer’s Association Chapter suggests using Protective Services. “If your loved one has become a danger to themselves, or if their well-being in in jeopardy, outside help might be required. Protective Services may be able to help convince your loved one to see a doctor.”