Fear of forgetting

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: June 16th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

When a loved one’s forgetful behavior causes more serious problems than just an extended search for the car keys, a spouse may prefer to ignore the embarrassing trait.

In fact, new research finds Alzheimer’s disease carries a stigma that may delay diagnosis by up to six years. That can eliminate the potential to catch memory loss at an early stage, which can be crucial for keeping the disease in check.

The insight comes from an online survey of more than five-hundred caregivers, spouses and parents of people with the disease. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America sponsored the research.

The survey revealed patients typically had Alzheimer’s symptoms for two years and saw two doctors before being diagnosed.

More than fifty percent of caregivers mentioned they didn’t take their loved one to a doctor sooner because of the disease’s stigma.Caregivers also reported they didn’t know much about the disease. That fact, coupled with denial, often contributed to delayed diagnosis.

Most caregivers said they felt sad after their loved one was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. They also mentioned feeling angry, scared or relieved.

After diagnosis, they found it necessary to create a plan for caring for their ill loved one. Sixty-nine percent of caregivers said they wished they had more help from family and friends, including financial and emotional support.

Ultimately it’s never easy to dodge denial. But experts point out the faster families face the onset of Alzheimer’s symptoms, the quicker their loved ones can get the medical care they need.