In the News: Annual Cognitive Screening Recommended

By Kathie Miller, GHI Corporate Director of Marketing & Communications

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Listening to the radio on my drive home the other day, an NPR story caught my attention.

The Alzheimer’s Association released its 2019 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report on March 4, and in their release shared the following: “[…] despite a strong belief among seniors and primary care physicians that brief cognitive assessments are important, only half of seniors are being assessed for thinking and memory issues, and much fewer receive routine assessments.”

And it would seem one of the causes — and perhaps one of the primary causes — for this lack of regular cognitive assessment is due to a stigma or hesitation on the part of both doctor and patient. 

 

 

Consider these statistics:

  • 16% of seniors (those aged 65 and over) say they receive regular assessments for cognition, memory or thinking during their routine check-ups
  • 90% receive regular blood pressure screenings
  • 83% receive regular cholesterol screenings
  • 80% receive regular vaccinations
  • 73% receive regular hearing or vision assessments
  • 66% receive regular diabetes screenings
  • 61% receive regular checks for cancer

As NPR reported: “This cognitive assessment should be part of every senior’s annual wellness visit,” says Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association. “But we’re seeing that it’s simply not happening.”

In fact, Medicare requires that an evaluation of cognitive function be part of an older adult patient’s annual wellness visit. Such assessments don’t take much time, yet doctors aren’t conducting them as they should. This often means that older adults receive a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s at a point where it might be too late to receive the best treatments, including treatments that are still in clinical trials.

And it would seem that most of this lack of assessment is due to social stigma. Doctors are often reluctant to discuss this with their patients, and patients are often hesitant to ask to be tested.

I encourage you to listen to the NPR story and read more at the Alzheimer’s Association site. I believe that at any age, we should be proactive about our health and be willing to discuss health concerns openly with our medical care providers. Don’t be afraid to discuss this and any other health issues you wish to explore with your doctors, nurse practitioners and physicians’ assistants.