Older Adults OK with Telephone Screening for Dementia

By Rick Naurert PhD
October 12th, 2021
Medically reviewed by Paul Sietes, MD.

A new study has determined that nearly two-thirds of older adults were willing to undergo telephone screening for dementia.

Researchers from the Indiana University Center for Aging Research and the Regenstrief Institute found that this willingness to be screened did not differ by sex, age, or race.

Investigators found that people who understood the benefits of early knowledge of cognitive decline or those who have a friend or relative with Alzheimer’s disease were especially receptive to the screening.

Dementia is a general term for the wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other cognitive skills severe enough to reduce a person’s ability to perform everyday activities. Alzheimer’s disease, which is progressive, is the most common form of dementia.

By definition, screening for dementia helps to detect problems requiring further diagnostic assessment. The study appears in the peer reviewed, open access Journal of Aging Research.

Patient willingness to be screened for dementia by phone was determined via a phone survey of older primary care patients. The 63 percent willingness rate was significant although lower than the 90 percent willingness rate of patients who were queried in face-to-face interviews as reported by Indiana University Center for Aging Research and Regenstrief Institute researchers in a 2012 study.

“Despite rising incidence rates of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, many individuals with cognitive impairment are not screened. They go unrecognized and thus never receive evaluation or diagnosis,” said Indiana University investigator Nicole Fowler, Ph.D., who led both studies.

“Understanding patients’ attitude about the risk and benefits of early identification of dementia is vital as we evaluate potential screening barriers and facilitators.”

In 2013 the United States Preventive Services Task Force concluded that the evidence to routinely screen for dementia in primary care is insufficient due to a lack of studies evaluating the risks, benefits, and patient perspectives of the value of dementia screening.

“Our study provides insight into what patient’s think about dementia screening,” ¬†Fowler said.

“In addition to informing policymakers and researchers, we should make community physicians and others outside the academic community more aware of both the benefits of informing older adults about screening options for dementia and the willingness of this group to undergo screening either in person or by telephone.”

Telephone screening is less burdensome to the patient and possibly to the physician’s office, she noted.

The 400 older adults in the study were patients of physicians affiliated with two large community health care systems. None of the patients had a dementia diagnosis and less than two percent reported being told by their physician that they suspected memory problems.

Source: Indiana University/EurekAlert!

Dr. Rick Naurert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Naurert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.