As my colleague Lois Bowers reported, the Alzheimer’s Association unveiled some stunning figures this week.
Among the most frightening: Less than a third of older adults (28%) have ever been assessed for cognitive problems, and only 16% undergo routine cognitive assessments during normal health checkups.
It’s hardly a secret that older people are the most prone to cognitive decline. So why are so relatively few of them getting this possible problem checked out? Fear? Inconvenience? Something else?
It certainly can’t be ignorance. The same survey found that about half of all older adults are aware of changes in their cognitive abilities.
What’s also evident is that every day, more people are receiving diagnoses. In fact, the Alzheimer’s Association pegs the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s dementia at 5.8 million — and rising. To put that in context, 31 states have a lower total population.
Given the massive numbers involved, it would seem self-evident that early detection could offer benefits in multiple areas. These include medical care, emotional wellbeing and even financial planning.
So how do we go about the difficult task of getting more people checked out?
For older people who really don’t want to know (and sadly, many seniors fall into this category), there probably isn’t much that can be done. But what about those who have nagging concerns and would like some resolution?
Here’s a simple suggestion: Perhaps your community could offer residents the opportunity to undergo cognitive screening when they receive their annual flu shot? After all, such a test only takes about 10 minutes to administer.
Seems to me you’d be providing a valuable service for your residents. And perhaps for your organization as well.
We hear much these days about wasteful healthcare spending. This combo platter would be anything but.