Ricardo Linares, a 63-year-old resident of Los Angeles whose mother died of Alzheimer's five years ago, confessed that he never wanted to talk about the chances of inheriting the disease or his symptoms with his doctor.
"I do not want to know if I inherited Alzheimer's. Total, if there is no cure, "he said in an interview with La Opinion . Many elderly people fear having inherited the disease or believe that lack of memory is typical of age and avoid talking about it.
However, professionals and experts agree on the importance of early detection and ensure that the genetic aspect, while increasing the odds, is not the only determinant.
"Early detection is critical," said Susan Howland, director of the program and education department at the Alzheimer's Association in Southern California, in an interview with La Opinion . Among the reasons, he cited the emotional support of relatives and people close to him, as well as the patient's opportunity to plan their future in time.
"I have heard people with Alzheimer's say 'If I had known before, I would have made that trip, or would have planned my old age differently'. I even heard a patient say that once he received the diagnosis he felt relieved because he could put a name to the symptoms he was experiencing, " he shared.
The Alzheimer's Association published its annual report of figures and statistics on Alzheimer's this week.
The report not only evaluates different aspects of the disease, such as incidence, mortality or costs of caring for people with dementia, but also considers the awareness and information
that the community has about Alzheimer's and other types of dementia and the evaluations and type of care that patients receive, among other aspects.
"When a person has Alzheimer's or dementia, this affects not only the individual, but also the family and the entire community," said Dr. Carolyn Kaloostian, who specializes in family medi-
cine and gerontology, and affiliated with Keck Hospital of USC and USC Care. Medical Group, in an interview with La Opinión.
Among the findings of the report, the organization found that only half of people over 65 are examined for memory and reasoning problems. While this is one of the requirements of the annual Medicare wellness visit . The report found that only 1 in 3 adults know that these visits should include such an evaluation.
"Unfortunately not all doctors perform cognitive assessments on their patients over 65 years of age, nor do patients require it. There is a disconnect between who should be the first person to address the issue, whether the patient or the doctor, "explained Howland.
The evaluation is based on the observation of the cognitive abilities of the patient, as well as a consultation about their relationships and interactions with friends and family, and their concerns related to memory and reasoning.
And despite not making such a cognitive assessment, both doctors and seniors agreed on the importance of early detection. 82% of the interviewees for the report and 94% of the doctors said that it was important to evaluate patients older than 65 years to determine obstacles and cognitive challenges.
Incidence of Alzheimer's
Several reports agree that low-income and colored communities have a higher incidence of Alzheimer's than communities of white people.
"When I read these statistics they really surprised me. The first thing I asked myself is, how can we reverse this? "Said Dr. Kaloostian. The expert explained that the reason is not known exactly, but that it is partly related to nutrition and lifestyle.
"We have found a higher incidence of the disease among communities with high levels of poverty, less education, fewer resources and lower socio-economic status . More studies are needed to determine the reasons for this, "he said.
The doctor explained that the lifestyle of the person, such as nutrition, exercise, or the use of alcohol or drugs can have an impact on the development of the disease.
Awareness, education and stigma
Dr. Kaloostian stressed the importance of communication of the relatives of the person with dementia and the doctor.
"The relatives of a person who shows the first signs of dementia should talk to the doctor and tell them that maybe their mom or dad is losing their memory, or that they noticed changes in their behavior. At the same time it is important that doctors take the time to ask certain key questions to patients over 65 years of age, such as 'How is your memory? Have you noticed changes, in what sense?' ", exemplified.
Cognitive assessments in figures
• Only 16% of respondents, this is one in seven, said they regularly receive cognitive assessments related to memory and reasoning, during their routine health checkups. While other types of physical evaluations, as in the case ofnregular pressure evaluations, are performed much more frequently. 91% of respondents, for example, said they received regular blood pressure screenings, 83% cholesterol, 80% immunizations, 73% vision and hearing, 66%
diabetes and 61% cancer.
• 51% of people of legal age said they were aware of changes in their cognitive abilities, such as changes in their ability to think, understand or remember, but only 40%, or four out of 10, shared those concerns with their doctor.
• Less than one in seven elderly people, or 15%, reported having mentioned their cognitive concerns to the doctor, by their own decision.
• 93% of the elderly said they trust their doctor when he recommends memory and reasoning evaluations. And yet, less than half of the doctors, or 47%, said that it was a standard procedure to examine all patients older than 65 years, due to cognitive problems . Only 26% of the elderly, this is one in four reported having a doctor who asked them about their cognitive functions, without the patient asking first.
• Most doctors said that the decision to assess patients' cognitive abilities was motivated, in part, by reports of symptoms or requests from patients, family members or caregivers.
•68% of doctors said they did not cognitively evaluated their patients over 65 years because they had no complaints or symptoms. 58% of the physicians said that they did not do this type of evaluation due to lack of time and 57% argued the patient's resistance, as a main factor.
Alzheimer's in the USA
• It is estimated that, by 2019, about 5.8 million Americans of all ages live with Alzheimer's, including 200,000 people under the age of 65. Of the 5.8 million, 670,000 are residents of California.
• By 2025, it is estimated that there will be around 7.1 million people over 65 years of age with dementia, an increase of 27%.
• Two thirds of Americans over 65 with dementia (3.5 million) are women. Alzheimer's is the sixth leading cause of death in the US and the fifth leading cause of death for those over 65.
Care for people with dementia
• According to the report of the Alzheimer's Association, more than 16 million Americans provide care for people with dementia without receiving payment.
• About two-thirds of caregivers of people with dementia are women.
• 41% of caregivers have a family income of $ 50,000 or less.
• It is estimated that the US has approximately half of certified gerontologists of what it needs. Only 9% of nurse practitioners have special experience in gerontological care.
For more information, you can visit https://www.alz.org
The Alzheimer's Association is the world's leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer care, support and research. Our mission is to eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health. Our vision is a world without Alzheimer's. For more information, visit www.alz.org.