The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has issued a final recommendation statement on screening for cognitive impairment in adults age 65 or older. What is the final recommendation?
Those who are having memory problems should talk to their doctor or nurse, but currently, there is not enough evidence for the task force to make a recommendation for or against screening all older adults for cognitive impairment.
The task force recognizes that cognitive impairment is a serious public health problem. It encourages health care professionals and the general population to be alert to early signs of cognitive impairment. Health care professionals are urged to follow up with patients who have symptoms or concerns. It also urges more research on screening and treating this health problem.
What is Cognitive Impairment?
Cognitive impairment is a disorder that causes a person to have problems with memory or other mental activities, like learning, organizing and making decisions. It includes a range of conditions from mild cognitive impairment to severe dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is just one type of cognitive impairment.
The main risk factor for cognitive impairment is getting older. Other risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, tobacco use, alcohol use, depression, poor diet and lack of exercise.
Mild cognitive impairment involves memory problems that are greater than normal but it does not interfere with a person’s usual daily activities. Symptoms of mild cognitive impairment are difficult to detect.
Dementia is much more serious. It is the loss of thinking, remembering and lacks reasoning skills to the point where it becomes difficult for a person to carry out daily activities, like bathing or dressing. People with dementia may also have behavioral and psychological problems. About 2.4 million to 5.5 million Americans have some form of dementia.
Screening usually involves asking patients a series of questions and having them perform several tasks that measure memory, language skills, attention, decision-making and other mental functions.
Talking to Your Doctor
Addressing memory issues can sometimes be difficult to talk about. However, if you have been experiencing these problems or a family member has mentioned them, you may want to see your doctor or nurse to discuss these concerns. He or she can talk with you about the next steps to take to evaluate your symptoms. During this conversation, you can have a chance to have your questions answered and concerns addressed. This is the best opportunity to consider personal preferences for making health care choices. It is usually best to consider professional recommendations to be fully informed and decide what actions might be right for you and your loved ones.
Source: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force