© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions
We may be adding another regular health check after turning 50. It will be a blood test diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease.
Annual brain health check-ups using plasma Alzheimer’s disease biomarkers is the first of 18 recommendations put forward in a report commissioned by Alzheimer’s Disease International and released last week on World Alzheimer’s Day, 21 September.
Titled “Journey through the diagnosis of dementia”, the report brings together a survey of 3,542 clinicians, people with dementia and carers, and expert essays from 113 leading brain health clinicians and practitioners from universities and research centres around the world.
Health systems - prepare now
Its recommendations are targeted at government health systems, and the message is loud and clear: prepare now for the expected tsunami of those living with dementia in every country around the globe.
As mentioned in an earlier blog this month, Early Signs Of Dementia, in Australia an estimated 250 people a day are joining the current population of around 472,000 Australians living with dementia.
After reading the report, clearly the figures are much higher. Why? Because of current issues with diagnosis and the need for governments to step up and help in this area.
How can governments assist? One simple first step is to give advice to citizens on online self-assessments by either providing a government-approved online self-assessment or directing people to a government-endorsed association for further information.
This step would help stop individuals, worried that they are showing signs of dementia, from undertaking self-assessments through bogus websites offering bogus treatments.
A government-approved online self-assessment pathway would give these individuals a sense of whether to see their doctor or not, and avoid the distress caused by fraudulent online operators.
Removing the stigma
Governments need to help remove any reluctance around seeing the GP to undergo the current tests for Alzheimer’s, listed in another blog, Let's Talk About Dementia. While we are not at the blood test stage yet, we need to be investing our resources in making it available as soon as possible.
Investment in specialised diagnostic & treatment clinics
We also need to be looking at having medical clinics in metropolitan areas which are specialised in the diagnosis and treatment of dementia. This would overcome the issue of GPs simply not having the consultation time needed for patients who have dementia.
In regional and rural areas, GPs need to be appropriately funded by government to provide the time required to help these patients undertake the diagnostic tests and support them on their journey.
Early intervention for better quality of life
You may ask why invest all these resources in diagnosis when there is currently no cure for the disease?
The answer is that early diagnosis is important to keep capabilities intact and maintain independence for as long as possible.
New therapies exist and are constantly evolving. Earlier this year the US Food and Drug Administration approved, albeit controversially, Aduhelm, the first disease-modifying treatment for Alzheimers disease said to be only effective in treating the early stages of the disease.
Back in 2018, the Australian Government announced a $185 million medical research package – the Dementia, Ageing and Aged Care Mission. An expert panel managing that fund was formed in May 2019. The panel in mid-2020, after consultation with stakeholders, settled on a roadmap and implementation plan from 2020 to 2022.
We look forward to tracking the progress of the roadmap, in particular, its high priority areas of supporting research on care and diagnostic pathways to enable timely diagnosis of dementia and interventions that prevent or delay the onset of dementia symptoms.
If you struggle at times when visiting a loved one who is living with dementia; you're not alone. We put together an activity poster of activities you and your loved one can enjoy together. Get your copy here:
For advice and assistance on how to set up the right care, support and assistance for your loved one, at the right time and in the right place, please feel free to contact me, Danielle Robertson, at DR Care Solutions, for an initial discussion.
 Alzheimer's Disease International: World Alzheimer Report 2021
 US Food & Drug Administration: Aducanumab / Aduhelm
 Australian Government Department of Health: Medical Research Future Fund's Dementia, Ageing & Aged Care Mission - National Consultation on the Roadmap & Implementation
 Australian Government Department of Health: Dementia, Ageing & Aged Care Mission Roadmap