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The Importance of Early Diagnosis and Communication

"I always say get the diagnosis. Go for it. Don't be afraid of it. It only gives you more peace and strategies."

Mary Catherine O'Brien


My advice, if it gets to the point where it affects your day-to-day life, as it did with me, go get a clinical test. I think early diagnosis is so important.

If we had gotten an earlier diagnosis, we would have been a lot better off in making earlier financial decisions, if we had known earlier.

If anyone suspects that their loved one has any kind of signs of Alzheimer's, I would say definitely seek out a diagnosis, seek out a neurologist. Find out exactly how advanced—find out the medications that are going to help you. Contact Alzheimer's Association. Contact a local health organization, Us Against Alzheimer's. They’re doing tremendous things, and everyone I know says I don't know what I’d do without them.

I always say get the diagnosis. Go for it. Don't be afraid of it. It only gives you more peace and strategies.

I think it's important to talk. Communication is important. We hold too many things in, and if you feel something is wrong, you need to talk about it because you can't walk this journey alone.

There are people like me who are suffering every day, who are afraid to talk about this damn disease. They're fighting through this, they're afraid to talk to family often about it or family don't understand, or they say, well, you look good.

When I was diagnosed, the doctor first told me, he said, look, you need to see an attorney and get your financial affairs in order, and then he said you need to tell your family, and you need to tell your friends, and you need to tell your colleagues, that's important that they know. So, how do you tell your family? It's a tough thing, and so I organized a family dinner. I kind of blurted it out. I said, you know, remember the journey that your grandparents were on? Well, I have embarked on that, and I've just been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's. My son, Brendan, said, his first line was, well, that explains a lot. And they had noticed, and just as I was relieved, they were relieved to say, okay, we know who this enemy is now that's intruded into our family.

One of my experiences that taught me something about support was when Greg got his diagnosis, I didn't want to tell anybody. I just want to live it in my own little world, and a local TV show came down and did an episode on us, and it was very emotional. So anyway, they put this show on and I fully expected that no one would see it.

I got to school the next day, and everyone saw it, and I thought I was going to be devastated, but it was the best thing that happened. The hugs I got, people came with flowers, my guidance counselors were, you know, coming in to talk to me. I mean, it was such a lesson that you have to let people know, and that's how you get your support.

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