Doctors concerned about low use of early dementia testing

Local News

The National Alzheimer’s Association sent out its 2019 facts and figures last week. That included a special report that said 16% of patients get cognitive testing on a regular basis, something doctors say is essential to tracking Alzheimer’s. 

“We don’t have a definitive and totally accepted biological marker so we have to do what’s called a clinical diagnosis,” said Dr. Ron Williams, a neuropsychologist in Fort Wayne. “There’s an outline that we follow to do a clinical diagnosis which ends up being fairly reliable.” 

Cognitive tests can be as simple as stating what year it is or what state you are in or a complex memory game. Doctors admit they aren’t always easy, but there is a reason for that. 

“In our world for a test to be a good test, I have to be able to push you to the limit and know what you’re able to do and when things become difficult,” Dr. Tasha Williams, another neuropsychologist in Fort Wayne, said. “It’s not supposed to be something that is a doom and gloom type of experience, but one that provides you with more information so that you can have the best quality of life that you can have moving forward.” 

Both Dr. Tasha and Dr. Williams said cognitive testing can establish as a baseline that will help doctors track Alzheimer’s to better plan for what treatments can be performed, but that does not have everyone convinced. 

“I don’t want to get tested ahead of time to know, I guess is kind of my theory on that,” said Patti Davis whose mother passed away from Alzheimer’s. “I don’t think I want to know because I think if I know ahead of time then I will dwell on that.” 

Doctors say not only does early testing help track Alzheimer’s progression, but early detection can also open treatment options. 

“Being able to identify it early on does allow us to use some of the medicines which are effective at slowing the process,” Dr. Ron Williams said. “It also allows us to talk to the patient and the family about what to expect and what to prepare for in the future. We don’t want to wait until it’s too late to start intervening and doing things. There are things that you can do and the earlier you identify the problem, the more effective those interventions are.” 

If you are interested in looking into cognitive testing, you can find more information about it here

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