More than five million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s disease. As as many as 16 million people will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s by the year 2050, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. The group says there are 10 warning signs to watch for if you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from dementia. They are:
- Memory loss that disrupts daily life
- Challenges in planning or solving problems
- Difficulty in completing familiar tasks at home, work or leisure
- Confusion over time and place
- Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
- New problems with words in speaking or writing
- Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
- Decreased or poor judgement
- Withdrawal from work and/or social activities
- Changes in mood or behavior
Many people suffer from symptoms for years before they are diagnosed. Dementia also can be confused with typical signs of aging, such as getting irritated when a person’s routine is disrupted, the Alzheimer’s Association said.
Doctors have been reluctant to test and diagnose Alzheimer’s in many cases because not only is it the news bad, there is no cure. But starting in January, after years of pressure from patient advocate groups, Medicare will reimburse doctors for the time it takes to test patients with cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, at any stage.
The hope is that more people will be tested and diagnosed in the earliest stages, which advocates say increases the likelihood for better outcomes for both the patient and family. The new Medicare billing code also could provide more incentives for primary care doctors to take the time to further evaluate their patients and participate in care plans. Some doctors might even refer patients to a neurologist for further testing, advocates say.
The news comes when reports show the cost of caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia is soaring. Alzheimer’s is estimated to total $236 billion in the U.S. in 2016, and projected to increase to $1.1 trillion by the middle of the century. Speak to an elder care lawyer today if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia.
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