Alzheimer’s disease: The importance of early diagnosis (Guest blog)
The role of caregiver is often overlooked, with the focus typically falling on the relative, partner or friend who bears the weight of a diagnosis. Caregiving requires an enormous amount of strength and resilience, and the discovery that a loved one has Alzheimer’s disease is a truly life-changing experience.
I witnessed this through a colleague whose mother was living with Alzheimer’s. Over time, my colleague had to give up an increasing amount of responsibilities at work to dedicate more time to caring for their mother as her disease progressed. Eventually they had to step down from their position to care for their mother full-time in the final stages of her disease.
In the beginning, the cognitive decline starts with minor symptoms, such as forgetfulness and confusion. As the disease advances, support evolves from making sure that the immediate environment is safe for the person affected and they are not leaving their home and getting lost, to being completely reliant on the caregiver for the most basic of daily tasks such as eating, washing and moving. It is often an all-consuming role for the caregiver and wholly selfless.
Although there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, as a society, we need to work harder to make both healthcare professionals and patients aware of the value of early diagnosis, intervention and adopting a holistic approach to care, to give people with Alzheimer’s the optimal chance to preserve mental function for longer and slow down the progression of their symptoms. Ultimately, this would help to give people with Alzheimer’s (and their caregivers) a greater period of independence and a better quality of life.
At Biogen we all share the same commitment of wanting to make a meaningful difference to the lives of people with Alzheimer’s and their families. We hear the real life stories and have been touched by the experiences of those directly around us who have been impacted by the condition, and see the unmet need; this gives us the focus and drive, and keeps us going. Beyond helping patients and their families, it’s the team spirit, marvel of science and hope that really excites me about this work.
#WeWontRest until we succeed in making meaningful improvements to the lives of people impacted by Alzheimer’s disease, including their families.