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Fighting Alzheimer's

Why Talking About Cognitive Decline With Loved Ones Is Critical

Photo: Courtesy of Huy Phan

It is a conversation every family finds challenging: talking to a loved one about memory loss or cognitive decline. Having these critical conversations, however, can help facilitate early detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia, offering individuals and families important benefits.

A recent Alzheimer’s Association/Ad Council omnibus survey found that less than half (44 percent) of Americans surveyed say they would talk to a loved one right away about seeing a doctor if they noticed signs of cognitive decline. Instead, those polled say they are more likely to check in with other relatives (56 percent) and do research online (50 percent) when observing troubling signs.

Avoiding or delaying these important conversations, however, is not what most Americans say they want from family members if they were showing signs of decline. More than 4 in 5 respondents said they want family members to share concerns if signs appear, and nearly 3 in 5 said they would be very likely to see their doctor for follow-up evaluation if concerns were raised.  

Hopeful together

To bridge current barriers, the Alzheimer’s Association and the Ad Council are teaming up on “Hopeful Together,” a new national communications campaign aimed at encouraging families to discuss cognitive concerns with each other and their doctors sooner to enable early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

The campaign’s website is available in English and Spanish, and offers tools and resources to help families recognize early warning signs of Alzheimer’s, tips for facilitating conversations about cognition, benefits of early detection and diagnosis, a discussion guide for use with doctors and health providers, and other disease-related information.

“We know many families struggle with raising these concerns,” said Heidi Arthur, chief campaign development officer for the Ad Council. “It’s our goal that this critical campaign will continue to encourage audiences to notice the signs early, trust their gut, and have the talk. These conversations make all the difference in the lives of those who have been diagnosed and their families.”

Currently, there are more than 6 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s and 1in 3 seniors dies from the disease. Two-thirds of Americans 65 and older living with Alzheimer’s are women. By 2050, the number of people ages 65 and older with Alzheimer’s is projected to reach nearly 13 million.

For more information, visit the Alzheimer’s Association website,, or call its free 24/7 Helpline at (800) 272-3900.

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