A troubling disconnect highlighted by the Alzheimer’s Association Annual Facts and Figures Report shows patients aren’t disclosing cognitive issues and doctors aren’t screening for them.
Only 16 percent of seniors get regular assessments for memory issues, according to the study released Tuesday, and just 15 percent of seniors report bringing up cognition issues with their doctor.
Primary care physicians are also missing the mark when it comes to assessing patients for signs of Alzheimer’s.
Nearly all physicians said it is important to check all patients over 65 for cognitive impairment, but fewer than half said it’s their standard protocol, according to the report.
Susan Antkowiak, vice president of programs and services at the Alzheimer’s Association, said this disconnect has been a “longstanding difficulty.”
Antkowiak said patients may be less likely to report symptoms of Alzheimer’s due to the fear, anxiety and stigma that surround the disease.
“It’s understandably nerve-wracking when you’re thinking about the fact that you may have some cognitive loss,” Antkowiak said. “Sometimes people are very private about potential medical issues or concerns, so it takes some courage to think about talking with your doctor.”
Antkowiak said the responsibility ultimately falls on the shoulders of physicians to check the cognitive health of their senior patients, but many aren’t equipped with the appropriate tools.
“Physicians by and large are not trained and don’t have the skills they need to detect possible cognitive issues in their patients,” said Antkowiak, who also noted the importance of normalizing conversations about memory loss with patients.
Antkowiak said a cognitive assessment takes about five minutes to conduct and can identify causes of memory issues, serving as a source of early detection.
David Shenk, co-host of the podcast The Forgetting: Inside the Mind of Alzheimer’s, said early detection is key in helping patients.
“Directing our research and our resources toward treating it pre-symptomatically … that’s the whole ball game,” Shenk said. “There is such a crazy, unbearable storm going on inside your brain, it’s almost hard for the layperson to understand.”
Between 2000 and 2017, the number of Alzheimer’s deaths in the United States more than doubled, increasing 145 percent. In the Bay State, 1,841 people died from Alzheimer’s disease in 2017.
New Massachusetts legislation passed in August of last year requires any physicians, physician assistants and nurses to have training in detection, diagnosis and treatment of Alzheimer’s and dementia to obtain or renew their license.
Antkowiak said patients should consider talking with a doctor if they notice challenges in speaking or writing, or forgetfulness that impairs daily life.
“Even in the worst-case scenario, we have an opportunity for you to live your best life, your most empowered life, by taking control of your situation,” Antkowiak said.
The post Alzheimer’s Association report shows physicians not screening for cognitive impairment appeared first on Boston Herald.