The 2019 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures report provides new data and insights regarding seniors’ and physicians’ awareness, attitudes, and utilization of brief cognitive assessments in the primary care setting for patients age 65 and older.
For the report, available at alz.org, the Alzheimer’s Association surveyed nearly 2,000 older adults with Alzheimer’s and 1,000 primary care physicians to further understand the frequency with which brief cognitive assessments occur in this patient population and what conversations are or are not being had between seniors and their physicians, with the goal of identifying how to improve the dialogue around these assessments and their adoption.
Results showed that only one-half of seniors were assessed for cognitive decline, and only 16% said they were receiving regular assessments. Additionally, less than one-half of physicians (47%) said it was their standard protocol to assess all patients aged 65 or older for cognitive impairment, despite 72% being aware that the Medicare annual wellness visit should specifically include assessment for the detection of cognitive decline.
Ultimately, these results indicate that brief cognitive assessments are underutilized in the primary care setting, which results in missed opportunities for early detection and diagnosis that provides a number of medical, social, emotional, financial, and planning benefits.
The report also found a disconnect between seniors and primary care physicians regarding who is responsible for initiating a conversation about a brief cognitive assessment. For example, although 51% of seniors were aware of changes in their cognitive abilities, only 40% had talked with a healthcare professional about it. Further, the report shows that while a large majority of seniors expected their physicians to recommend a cognitive assessment as needed, many physicians reported waiting for seniors to report symptoms or concerns. To that end, the Alzheimer’s Association encourages physicians to talk to patients’ families, as appropriate, to better understand their patients’ cognitive state.