Primary care physicians are good at checking senior’s cholesterol and blood pressure, but often fail to use tests that can detect dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, less than half of primary care physicians routinely test patients 65 and older for memory and thinking issues.
Why Isn’t Alzheimer’s Being Tested?
Only 16% of older patients reported that they undergo mental tests on a regular basis during routine health checks. By comparison, 91% of seniors say that their annual appointments include a blood pressure check, and 83% say they have a cholesterol test. Mental assessments should be a part of the annual health visit for each person, but we see that this doesn’t happen.
Usually, a cognition exam only takes a few minutes. It includes interviewing the patient or the patient’s family, evaluating the patient’s behaviors, or using brief verbal or written tests. Medicare has created a cognitive assessment, but doctors usually skip this assessment. Many seniors are only diagnosed when the impairment is severe.
Stopping Cognitive Decline
The first person who gets a drug that stops their Alzheimer‘s disease will get that drug in the context of a clinical trial and that‘s only going to happen to someone who knows they have cognitive decline. The report found that 82 percent of seniors think it‘s important to have their thinking and memory checked out regularly. And 94 percent of primary care physicians say it‘s important to assess every patient 65 and older for cognitive impairment.
Many doctors remain hesitant to broach the subject of cognitive testing with their older patients. Usually physicians wait for seniors to bring their concerns to them and seniors rarely do that, for a variety of reasons. Some of it could be fear, some of it could be stigma and some of it could be a little bit of, unfortunately, people believe that there‘s not a benefit to knowing about the disease or dementia.
What Do Doctors Fear?
One common fear among doctors is that they will harm an older patient by doing an assessment that reveals a cognitive problem. Due to this Fowler and a team of researchers did a study to see whether patients were harmed. The study found that there was no harm and no increased rates of anxiety or depression in older adults that were screened.
Even with this information it can be hard to get seniors who have a cognitive problem to see a specialist and get the right sort of care and counseling. Half the time patients refuse to act on the results of a cognitive assessment.
The solution is to have the medical system take a more active role in keeping in touch with people who‘ve had a screening test.
Fairmont Grand Senior Living Community
Fairmont Grand is a resident centered senior living and memory care facility in Rapid City, SD. Our goal is to create an environment where resident well-being is at the heart of everything we do.
Our wide range of services are designed to meet you or your loved one’s daily needs. We offer restaurant style dining options, a variety of physical activities, and give residents the opportunity to live as independently as possible.