Many people with dementia have never been to a doctor for their memory and thinking problems. Despite showing clear cognitive decline, researchers found that 55 percent of patients screened for dementia as part of the University of Michigan Health and Retirement Study had never been evaluated prior to participating in this study.
Lead author on the paper Dr. Vikas Kotagal, assistant professor of neurology at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, said “Early evaluation and identification of people with dementia may help them receive care earlier” and reduce costs. Not being screened is a lost opportunity for early intervention.
Though the study was small, consisting of only 845 people, the results could imply that nearly 1.8 million Americans, ages 70 and older, with dementia have never been screened and are not receiving treatment. In addition, the study found those who were married were more than twice as likely to have had dementia screening as people who were not married. “It’s possible that spouses feel more comfortable than children [do] raising concerns,” about dementia, Kotagal said.
Knowing when to get screened can be difficult, write the authors, since older adults experience some form of memory loss that is not dementia. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force does not recommend routine universal screening for dementia. “Performing this testing in clinically symptomatic older individuals, however, is a different story,” Kotagal added.