The Diagnosis Debate Hosted by GE Healthcare: With No Cure, Why Should we Aim for Earlier Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s Disease?

I was thrilled to be included as a panel member of the #TalkingTime debate hosted by GE Healthcare, which corresponded with the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) 2018 Annual Meeting in Los Angeles, CA.

The debate hosted by GE comes at a critical time in the aging services. The number of older adults projected to need care over the next twenty years is staggering. And experts in the field are expecting that the number of individuals diagnosed with a neurodegenerative disease will soar.

Our aging population creates several challenges and opportunities that have already started to affect sectors outside of senior living. Equipping caregivers with resources and education, and encouraging people to have advanced care planning conversations are two primary ways I believe we can begin to address the growing needs of older adults.

To be invited into a conversation that seeks to understand the importance of early diagnosis for neurodegenerative disorders offered me a unique opportunity to speak to the growing need for resources, education, and service supports to leading experts in the field.

Each Panel member works in the broad spectrum of the aging services. Their diverse background speaks to the competing needs in the field but offers hope that when brought together solutions can be found.

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An Industry Therapeutic Update from GE Healthcare

GE Healthcare formed a multidisciplinary panel of physicians, caregivers, and advocates to discuss the following question:

  • What’s preventing an earlier diagnosis of neurodegenerative disorders?
  • In some cases, could diagnosis be better off unknown?
  • Until more effective treatments are developed, what’s the point of earlier diagnosis?


Panel Members:

The Great Diagnosis Debate 

A prominent theme of the debate discussion was how the healthcare industry is already feeling the impact of an aging population.

Panelist, Jillian Carson, offered that many people are experiencing early onset symptoms, but struggle to find a primary physician that will provide them with a definitive diagnosis.

Dr. Marwan Sabbagh added that Primary Physicians who do not specialize in these types of diseases are often hesitant to make a diagnosis due to the complexities of the symptoms of the disease.

Until more effective treatments are developed, what’s the point of earlier diagnosis?

We don’t have a cure for Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease, and a diagnosis of either disease can mean years of treatment. So, without a cure is there a pressing need for an early diagnosis?

Maryanne Sterling cited the relief a diagnosis can have on both the individual and their family members – who have undoubtedly already assumed many of the responsibilities of a family caregiver.  Without a diagnosis, families can’t plan or obtain resources or services to assist in their caregiving needs.

Jillian Carson offered her own experience of searching for a diagnosis: it took years for her to find out she had Parkinson’s disease, and she had to endure hundreds of doctors’ appointments and struggled through numerous tests before ever receiving a definitive diagnosis from a physician.

Dr. Drew Falconer stated that a barrier to early diagnosis is a lack of education on these types of neurodegenerative diseases.  He believes that increased efforts to educate on early onset symptoms of Parkinson’s such as small handwriting, loss of smell, constipation, tremors, or a softer voice are critical to a higher quality of life for patients, and their ability to create a care plan that works best for them and their family.

Why is this Conversation so Important? 

The needs for skilled care are significant.  Over the years, I’ve watched the struggle of caregivers grow as the number of older adults who require specialized care increases. The needs in the Aging Services open new opportunities for those outside of the sector to join in on the conversation and to create solutions.

The care sector of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease struggle to get the attention it deserves. The conversation that GE Healthcare started is an exciting opportunity to start a dialogue and to encourage multidisciplinary solutions that seek to address a holistic approach to these issues.

More information on this event and future events from GE Healthcare can be found here

Check out the trip highlights video on YouTube! For more videos like this, please subscribe to our Youtube Channel!!

This event was professionally recorded by GE Healthcare, and we will share the full video once it is available.

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