Taking a Look at the Cognitive Assessment Disconnect

Taking a Look at the Cognitive Assessment Disconnect
In the time that it takes to read the first few paragraphs of this column, someone in the United States will develop Alzheimer’s disease. One person in the U.S. develops the illness every 65 seconds, according to a 2019 report. The Alzheimer’s Association indicates that just over half of those aged 65 and older who responded to a survey noticed changes in their cognitive abilities. However, only 40 percent of this group have discussed their experience with a healthcare professional, and just 15 percent initiated a conversation with their doctor about their concerns. The study referred to this cognitive assessment gap as a “disconnect.” That seems to be a spot-on definition.

Lack of assessment

During a typical medical appointment, when a patient describes symptoms to their doctor, they will be assessed and tests will be ordered, with the aim of finding a diagnosis. That is unless the symptoms are cognitive. Most patients fail to report cognitive slip-ups, and few doctors voluntarily evaluate cognitive ability — even though 94 percent of primary care physicians and more than 80 percent of seniors believe that checking for cognitive impairment is important. As mentioned above, there's a disconnect. Only 16 percent of seniors receive regular assessments for thinking and memory issues, according to the "2019 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures" report. Additionally, primary care physicians say they assess 50 percent of their senior patients on average. These facts and figures apply to
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