Impact of early diagnosis
Beyond the obvious personal benefits of early diagnosis (being able to slowdown the disease’s progression, ease of mind, lifestyle adjustments, planning, etc.), there are very clear direct and indirect economic benefits that have been estimated by many studies. The most widely cited study estimates direct fiscal savings (medical care and institutionalization) of earlier diagnosis at ~24k USD and indirect social benefits (lost productivity of patients and informal caregivers) at ~94k USD per patient annually.
The latest Harvard Public Health poll shows 95% of Americans over 65 years of age want to know if they are going to develop dementia. Beyond the fact that people want to know whether they have the disease or are at risk of developing it, early diagnosis of the disease allows for the progression to be decelerated.
Scientific research has provided us with new understandings about the underlying processes of the disease, and is bringing the scientific community closer to a cure.
In spite of the fact that no cure currently exists, available treatments are more effective if people are diagnosed in the early stages of the disease, before the death of many nerve cells has occurred. As it is currently impossible to reverse the nerve cell damage, early diagnosis can help tremendously.
For most types of dementias, patients can benefit to some extent from treatment with available medications and other measures, such as cognitive training. Drugs to specifically treat AD and some other progressive dementias are now available and are prescribed for many patients. These drugs can improve symptoms and slow down the progression of the disease (e.g. donepezil, memantine). This improves the patient's quality of life, eases the burden on caregivers, and/or delays admission to a nursing home.