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Delayed diagnosis of Alzheimer's poses a problem

June 26, 2013

Of all the challenges associated with Alzheimer's care, diagnosis may be the most prevalent. It can often be difficult to identify the symptoms, and by the time they become readily apparent it may be too late to delay cognitive decline. One of the biggest reasons diagnosis can be so difficult is because memory loss can be caused by everything from increased stress to symptoms of depression. However, delayed diagnosis can mean the difference between memory care and losing valuable time, reports the Sacramento Bee.

The issue has become increasingly common, experts say. Families may notice slight changes to their loved one's behaviors and try to seek a diagnosis, but doctors often write off these warning signs as the result of some other condition or life change. This is especially true for people who are in their 50s and 60s​, because doctors don't expect to see Alzheimer's symptoms appear in adults in that age range.

"Many providers find it hard to believe that someone so young could have dementia or Alzheimer's," Elizabeth Edgerly of the Alzheimer's Association of Northern California told the newspaper. "It's really difficult. People in their 50s are misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder or depression or even midlife crisis. Or they're told, 'Of course, you have memory problems. Who doesn't?'"

An estimated 5.2 million Americans currently have Alzheimer's, but that number is expected to increase as the senior population grows in the coming years, according to the Alzheimer's Association. Early detection is key because it gives patients and their families the chance to look into assisted living and memory care services, both of which can offer significant benefits when it comes to quality of life.