The United States is facing an emergent situation of an increasingly aging population, one that will outnumber the amount of young people by 2035, according to the Census Bureau.
If you’re working with older adults, you are already aware of the common neurological diseases that impact this population. Some of the most well-known neurological diseases cause dementia or the loss of intellectual functioning — remembering, reasoning, and thinking skills. Over time, individuals with dementia may struggle with daily tasks and require increased support from caregivers.
A 2007 study reported that the prevalence of diseases related to dementia (such as Alzheimer’s disease or Lewy body dementia) was about 13.9% for individuals older than 71. In addition, researchers found that dementia prevalence increased with age: from 5% in individuals between the ages of 71-79 to 37.4% in individuals over the age of 90.
More recently, the Alzheimer’s Association has reported that without advances in medicine, the number of people over 65 with dementia may grow to 13.8 million by 2050. As such, there’s an increasing need to identify and support individuals who are diagnosed with dementia.
Additionally, diagnosis rates for early-onset dementia and Alzheimer’s disease increased by 200% from 2013-2017 in ages 30-64, highlighting the importance of early screening and preventative care for age groups under 65.
Without a cure for dementia-related diseases, providers must turn their attention towards support plans for their patients.
A key to supporting improved clinical outcomes is early diagnosis. Early diagnosis helps patients plan for the future, organize a treatment plan, and take action to mitigate symptoms of dementia with appropriate medication and lifestyle changes.
Like yearly screens for early diagnosis of cancer, providers can also administer cognitive screeners to patients to assist in early diagnosis of dementia. Cognitive screeners are not necessarily used to diagnose dementia; however, they can help with capturing symptoms, and therefore creating a treatment plan, sooner.
Once you administer a cognitive screener to a patient, you can score up the results to determine if a referral for more testing or a specialist is warranted.
Below are some commonly used assessments that can help identify if your patient is experiencing cognitive changes:
The above assessments are standardized and sometimes require training or certification to distribute to your patients. Be sure to check administration guidelines for the assessment you intend to use.
For individuals with dementia, therapists may work with physicians, geriatric caretakers, or even family caretakers as part of a healthcare team. A therapist can align with the healthcare team to help individuals with dementia form skills and strategies to manage emotions related to the diagnosis, discuss current treatment plans, and specific behaviors to improve. Learn more about the benefits of therapy for older adults.
SonderMind can help your patients take the first step toward improved mental wellness and overall health by finding an affordable, licensed therapist in your area. For current partners, connect your patients to a therapist in 24-48 hours here. For prospective partners, you can contact 720-674-8866 or [email protected] to learn more about our streamlined mental health referral services.
Plassman BL, Langa KM, Fisher GG, Heeringa SG, Weir DR, Ofstedal MB, Burke JR, Hurd MD, Potter GG, Rodgers WL, Steffens DC, Willis RJ, Wallace RB. Prevalence of dementia in the United States: the aging, demographics, and memory study. Neuroepidemiology. 2007;29(1-2):125-32. doi: 10.1159/000109998. Epub 2007 Oct 29. PMID: 17975326; PMCID: PMC2705925.
United States Census Bureau. Older People Projected to Outnumber Children for First Time in U.S. History. 2018.
Alzheimer’s Association. 2018 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures. Alzheimer’s Dement 2018;14(3):367-429. Available at: alz.org/factsl