The Importance of Getting Tested for Alzheimer’s Disease

When it comes to Alzheimer's disease, finding the right doctor and receiving a diagnosis can take time. On average, it can take two or more years to get diagnosed, making it important to recognize the symptoms and take action as soon as possible.

The importance of getting tested for Alzheimer’s Disease.

It can be difficult to tell the difference between the typical signs of normal aging and symptoms that could be caused by Alzheimer’s and other dementias. That's why it's important to talk to a doctor to determine if further tests may be needed if you or your loved one begin to experience memory loss or other symptoms that disrupt daily tasks and activities.

It is also important to be proactive and have open and honest conversations with a doctor about the symptoms you or your loved one may be experiencing. This is especially important for people who may face additional challenges in getting diagnosed.

Delayed or Missed Diagnoses

  • Women, Black Americans, and Hispanics/Latinos are more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, but less likely to be diagnosed in a timely manner. When diagnosed late, the costs of care are higher and the ability to receive treatment may be limited.
  • Older Black Americans and Hispanics/Latinos are more likely to have missed diagnoses compared with older White Americans.
  • Doctors may detect mild cognitive impairment (MCI) later in its course among Black Americans, closer to the onset of dementia. Although the exact cause is not known, studies have shown that several issues faced by this population may contribute to delays in diagnosis, including reduced access to care services and lesser care quality.

Social Attitudes and Behaviors

  • Social attitudes and beliefs held in the Black American and Hispanic/Latino communities that memory problems are a normal part of aging might also delay diagnosis.
  • A survey also revealed that Black Americans, Hispanics/Latinos, and Native Americans are twice as likely to not see a doctor if experiencing thinking or memory problems compared with White Americans.

Potential Benefits of an Early and Accurate Diagnosis

An early and accurate diagnosis can have important benefits for people living with Alzheimer’s disease, their families, and their care partners.

Time to Plan for the Future

With an early diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease, you and your family can have more time to make informed decisions about how you spend time together, as well as important legal and financial plans for the future. It can also help you and your loved one introduce lifestyle changes earlier (such as controlling high blood pressure, quitting smoking, and exercising), implement tools and strategies to help maintain independence longer, build a support network, and make decisions about managing everyday activities, like driving.

For care partners, a loved one’s early diagnosis gives you time to slowly adjust to your new role, reducing the impact to your physical and mental well-being.

Emotional Benefits

An early Alzheimer’s diagnosis may help lessen anxieties about why you or your loved one are experiencing symptoms. It also allows you to be open about what you may want during each stage of Alzheimer’s. This can provide peace of mind, reduce the burden on family members, and prevent disagreements.

Access to Resources

Access to the right services and support can help you or your loved one live independently for longer and maintain a better quality of life. This includes access to treatment options that may help control some symptoms and the opportunity to participate in studies.

Reducing Cost Burden

An early Alzheimer’s diagnosis may help reduce medical and long-term care costs.

Although there are many benefits to an early and accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, there are still significant barriers to achieving it. These barriers may include a person’s perception that they will be treated differently, worry about the impact of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and concerns about the cost of treatment or lack of health insurance. It’s important to acknowledge these barriers because they can delay early detection and diagnosis.

Diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease

Get the details on how Alzheimer's can be accurately diagnosed.