Majority of Surveyed Older Adults Would Take a Free Test to Predict Alzheimer’s

Ana de Barros, PhD avatar

by Ana de Barros, PhD |

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Researchers have found that 75% of older adults would take a free and definitive test predictive of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), if such a test existed. The study with the findings, “Desire for predictive testing for Alzheimer’s disease and impact on advance care planning: a cross-sectional study,” was published in the journal Alzheimer’s Research and Therapy.

Even in the absence of highly effective treatments, predictive tests for AD and other dementia-related diseases may be useful to help patients and their loved ones prepare for decisions that need to be made regarding the future, including advance care planning.

Meera Sheffrin, MD, lead author from Stanford University School of Medicine, said in a press release, “Our research confirms that there is a high level of public interest in predictive tests for Alzheimer’s disease. This could be because Alzheimer’s is often in the media and perceived as a particularly devastating disease,” she said. “This interest, and the potential high demand for predictive testing, should be considered as these tests become available, so recourses are available to help counsel patients and prepare for the future.”

Using 874 people aged 65 or older who were gleaned from the national 2012 Health and Retirement Study, researchers investigated who would take a free and definitive test predictive of AD, and assessed how using such a test might impact advance care planning. Then, imagining they knew they would develop AD, participants were asked to rate from 0 to 100 their likelihood of completing advance care planning activities.

The researchers found that 75% of participants said they would take a free and definitive test predictive of Alzheimer’s disease. Imagining they knew they would develop the disease, 81% of participants said they likely would complete an advance directive, although only 15% had done so already. Additionally, if participants knew they were likely to develop AD, 87% said they would discuss future health plans with their loved ones.

“We found that interest in a predictive test for Alzheimer’s disease testing was similar amongst the participants, regardless of whether or not they perceived themselves as being at high or low risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Unexpectedly, interest did not vary between individuals who were healthy and those suffering from many medical conditions, or by sex, race, functional status or perceived memory,” Sheffrin said.

This interest and the potential for high demand for predictive testing when it is available should be considered as these tests become available, the researchers concluded.