The New York Times reported today that new guidelines will allow for earlier definition of Alzheimer’s disease. Research is increasingly indicating that changes occur in the brain well before it progresses to full blown dementia. The new guidelines divide Alzheimer’s into three stages: A phase when dementia has developed; a middle phase when mild problems are evident but the person is still functional; and the third, new phase, where there are no evident symptoms but the brain is changing.
The article also reports that a bill has been introduced in Congress that would create specific Medicare cost codes for Alzheimer’s, which would allow for payment for discussions between doctors and caregivers.
One interesting note from the article is that sometimes the earliest symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease s not memory loss, but mood changes or problems with language, spatial perception or reasoning.
There is increasing research being done on early diagnosis, with brain scans and testing cerebral spinal fluid for particular biomarkers. All of this is leading to new research on treatment. Even though there is still no effective treatment, it is important to be diagnosed and address the disease head on by doing proper planning.