Survey: New Jersey Families Are Facing Alzheimer’s More Openly

Source: NJ.com Health

Alzheimer’s Disease is coming out of the shadows in New Jersey, but many families struggling with it aren’t being guided to services that could help them cope: those are the key findings from a statewide PublicMind survey done at Fairleigh Dickinson University for the Alzheimer’s New Jersey organization.

The survey found that 89 percent of people concerned about memory loss went to see a doctor about the problem, and 87 percent received a formal diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. These are unexpectedly high numbers for a disease surrounded by such fear and stigma that families often have avoided seeking medical help in the past and doctors have been reluctant to give that diagnosis to patients.

Alzheimer’s NJ have been working hard to educate the public on the importance of getting a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s as early as possible. Kenneth Zaentz, its president and CEO, says the survey findings suggest that effort may be paying off. “The only thing I can attribute it to is that perhaps we done, over the years, a better job than other areas of the country about educating people about the importance of getting a diagnosis,” he says.

However, only about half of those who responded to the PublicMind survey said their doctor suggested support programs to assist them after the diagnosis was made. “That’s where more education has to occur, to have physicians become more aware what services are available,” Zaentz says. “I’m not saying a physician has to be an expert on everything that’s available in the community, but it’s at least important to let the family know that, yes, this is not a diagnosis anyone wants to receive, but there are services that can help.”

Experts agree that seeking a diagnosis as early as possible is always better than denying the problem or putting it off. For one thing, memory loss that resembles the symptoms of Alzheimer’s is sometimes caused by other medical conditions that can be identified and treated.

“Some kinds of dementia are reversible,” Zaentz says. “People can get dementia due to a urinary tract infection, and medications interacting can also cause it. And even if the diagnosis is Alzheimer’s, early detection can give the patient more time to adopt lifestyle changes that might help slow the progression of the disease, as well offer the family and patient more opportunity to connect with support groups, organizations and services that can assist them.”

But to take advantage of those services, people have to learn about them. Based on the survey findings, Alzheimer’s New Jersey will be looking for additional ways to educate both the medical community and the public about the help that’s out there.

More information is available at the Alzheimer’s NJ Web site (ALZnj.org) or by calling the organization’s Helpline at 888-280-6055.

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