Cognitive decline among older U.S. adults is increasingly a concern. According to the CDC, about 5.8 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia. That number is expected to balloon, and quickly. The agency predicts that by 2060, the number of these cases could reach about 14 million.
Could early cognitive screening help individuals and loved ones deal with this growing problem? One influential group of experts recently weighed in.
An inconclusive recommendation
There is a group called the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, made up of health professionals from across the country. They make broad recommendations about preventive health services based on available scientific evidence. The task force recently tackled the topic of cognitive screening in adults, and in February of 2020 published recommendations, the Washington Post reported.
Their conclusion? There is not enough scientific evidence about the benefits or harms of regular cognitive screening. Therefore, the task force is not endorsing or opposing its use. Its members instead said more studies are needed.
What is cognitive screening?
Cognitive screening is about prevention. It means testing older patients for potential signs of decline, even if they have no obvious symptoms. There are a number of tests that can be used, and most only take a few minutes.
Proponents argue early detection through this type of screening could lead to better care. There is another clear advantage: Planning. Knowing there may be early signs of cognitive decline allows a patient and their families to make proper arrangements for the future. That includes:
- Long-term medical care needs
- How to pay for that care
- Guardianship or conservatorship considerations
- Establishing an advance directive
- Estate planning
Dementia may be one of the most difficult diagnoses a patient or their loved ones can get. The illness demands a lot from everybody. Creating plans now that answer some of the difficult questions to come can lift some of that burden, allowing everyone to focus on the important things during this trying time.