By PAM BELLUCK
For the first time in 27 years, the definition of Alzheimerâ€™s disease is being recast in new medical guidelines that reflect fast-mounting evidence that it begins ravaging the brain years before the symptoms of dementia.
The guidelines, to be issued Tuesday by the National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimerâ€™s Association, divide the disease into three stages: a phase when dementia has developed, a middle phase in which mild problems emerge but daily functions can still be performed, and the most recently discovered phase, in which no symptoms are evident but changes are brewing in the brain.
â€œWeâ€™re redefining Alzheimerâ€™s disease and looking at this in a different way than had ever been done,â€ said Creighton Phelps, director of the National Institute on Agingâ€™s Alzheimerâ€™s Disease Centers Program. â€œI think weâ€™re going to start to identify it earlier and earlier.â€
The drive to diagnose Alzheimerâ€™s before it has progressed into profound dementia is also reflected in a bill introduced in Congress this month, which would create specific Medicare cost codes for Alzheimerâ€™s diagnosis, including steps involving discussions between the patientâ€™s doctor and caregivers, a recognition that keeping family members well-informed can result in better planning and care.
â€œEarly diagnosis is really the key to this,â€ said Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat of Massachusetts and a sponsor of the bill. â€œOftentimes family members notice the symptoms in their loved ones, but itâ€™s only years later that they get diagnosed or understand what resources are available.â€
Home care counselors at Partners in Healthcare are available to talk with you about yourin-home care needs including how to reduceÂ caregiver stress while providing better, affordable care. We are anÂ elder care agency providingÂ Home Care in Orlando.