THURSDAY, July 20, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Most older adults think that screening for dementia is a good idea, but few actually take that step. Only about 20 percent of those aged 65 to 80 years had a screening test in the past year to see if their memory and thinking abilities have started to decline, according to the results of the latest University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging.
"As many as half of Americans with Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia don't receive a formal diagnosis, even when they have clear symptoms," J. Scott Roberts, Ph.D., associate director of the poll and a professor at the university's School of Public Health, said in a statement. "As more diagnostic and treatment options become available, it's important to understand how older adults view them and how best to support those who undergo testing and receive results."
More than 1,200 older U.S. adults provided answers in the poll conducted in March. The results of the survey showed that 80 percent see the benefit of tests for older adults that assess memory and thinking. About 60 percent of respondents think that health care providers should offer cognitive, or mental, screening to all older adults every year. The vast majority, 96 percent, said a memory test that showed signs of trouble would cause them to take action to protect their brain health; about 75 percent said it would lead them to adjust financial and health care planning. Nearly three-fifths of respondents said they had never received any screening of their mental abilities.
Medicare covers these brief tests as part of an annual wellness visit for all its enrollees. More comprehensive tests are available for those who show cognitive decline.
Another screening option is to test blood for biomarkers of the brain proteins tau and amyloid. However, only 17 percent of those polled were familiar with these blood tests. Fewer than 1 percent of respondents had received one. About 9 percent said they would like one now.
Women were more likely than men to say they would experience significant distress if a screening or blood biomarker test suggested they had early signs of dementia. More than 60 percent of older adults said they would feel such distress. Researchers also noted an ethnic disparity in testing. Only 10 percent of older Hispanic adults reported having received cognitive screening in the past year, compared with 22 percent of White respondents and 21 percent of Black respondents.