Among the unbreakable bonds in life are the ones formed among family and friends.

These bonds may benefit our health in ways that we may not have before imagined.

A new study from the Birmingham City University is outlining evidence that family caregivers and professional care assistants can identify pre-dementia signs, possibly leading to early diagnosis of at-risk people.

The identification of pre-dementia in patients is important on multiple levels. It can provide a roadmap for future treatment. It can prompt at-risk individuals to take proactive steps that may postpone the further development of symptoms. In addition, from a pure practical standpoint, understanding early signs of dementia helps patients prepare for the financial and logistical considerations that lie ahead.

How are assistants and long-term care providers able to accomplish this? They rely on their experience of observation. When recalling certain behaviors or moments linked to the development of the illness during care, they retrospectively pinpointed manifestations of preclinical signs of this unforgiving disease. Some of their observations included a lowered threshold of frustration, poor memory, unusual events and changes in individuals with how they cope.

In short, people who cared for their loved ones and friends were listening. Not only were they helping these individuals navigate life with other health issues, but they also listened and noticed changes to their health that would eventually lead to dementia diagnoses.

I cannot express how important it is to step back and pay attention to those we care for. In the trainings I do for professionals and long-term care providers, I stress the importance of dementia-awareness. There’s no doubt that dementia gives rise to frustration, but with a newfound approach, each day can also be filled with meaningful moments that build the connection and relationship between caregiver and patients. And it really starts by being a good friend and listening.

Friendship, it appears, is not only a key element in caring for people with dementia. It may also be a means by which we can identify early signs of the disease, giving impacted individuals time to prepare. Good and compassionate care, no matter what stage, truly starts with these unbreakable bonds of friendship and family.

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