Alzheimer's disease often detected late due to lack of screening finds report

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia is fast becoming an important presence. A new survey released as part of the Alzheimer's Association's 2019 Alzheimer's Disease Facts and Figures report has revealed that there is often a delay in seeking help for dementia and associated cognitive decline.

Image Credit: Lightspring / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Lightspring / Shutterstock

Joanne Pike, chief program officer at the Alzheimer's Association in his statement said, “We need to increase the confidence and the skills of front-line providers so they can provide more care in this area. And we need to destigmatize the process for seniors, encouraging people to talk to their health-care providers and families about their concerns.” The report calls primary care physicians suggesting that all persons of the age 65 years and above need to have a short cognitive assessment test at their first Medicare annual wellness visit. This test needs to be a regular part of their year care. It takes less than 5 minutes to conduct says the report.

Pike explained, “The survey found a really troubling underuse of cognitive assessments during the annual healthcare check-up. Despite a strong belief among seniors and physicians that cognitive assessments are important for the early detection of Alzheimer's, only half of the seniors in the survey were being assessed for cognitive decline. And only 16% [of] seniors received regular follow up assessments.” She added that while cholesterol is being checked 83 percent of the time, blood pressure 91 percent of the time and vaccinations 80 percent of the time, cognitive tests remain unused (only 16 percent receive the tests). She said that the reason behind this could be the “strong disconnect between seniors and doctors as to who should initiate the conversation.” While the seniors feel that their physicians should initiate cognitive tests of their own accord, physicians feel that they would perform the tests only when patients or their family members complain of symptoms of cognitive decline.

The report adds that by the year 2025 the number of Americans who are 65 years or older and with Alzheimer’s will “reach 7.1 million -- almost a 27 percent increase from the 5.6 million age 65 and older affected in 2019.” The report says that the “oldest old” or those over 85 are at most risk of Alzheimer’s. The cost of the disease in 2019 was an estimated $290 billion which included health care, long-term care and hospice. Medicare and Medicaid covers around $195 billion while personal costs of care givers are up to $63 billion says the report.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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