More than half of seniors with memory loss or dementia have never been tested for either condition, according to a study by researchers at the University of Michigan. The researchers say that their study can be extrapolated to show that as many as 1.8 million Americans over the age of 70 with dementia are not evaluated for symptoms of cognitive decline, which means that drugs or other options to help slow the decline are not being accessed by many people who could benefit from them.
Those most likely to get tested are people who are married or who have very severe symptoms of dementia.
“Early evaluation and identification of people with dementia may help them receive care earlier,” says Vikas Kotagal, an author of the study and a professor at the University of Michigan medical school. “It can help families make plans for care, help with day-to-day tasks including observed medication administration, and watch for future problems that can occur. In some instances, these interventions could substantially improve the person’s quality of life.”
The study was part of a larger survey based at the University called the Health and Retirement Study. For the study, the researchers evaluated 856 people age 70 and older for dementia, including an interview with someone who knew the study participant well to ask whether they had ever seen a doctor for any memory or cognitive concerns.
Of the 856 participants, 297 met the criteria for dementia and of those 45 percent had seen a doctor about their memory problems. Race, socioeconomic status, the number of children and whether children lived close to the parents did not increase the chance for a dementia evaluation, according to the study results.
The study was published in Neurology.