Fewer than half of primary care doctors surveyed said they test patients 65 and older for problems with memory and thinking, according to a report released by the Alzheimer’s Association. Only 16 percent of older patients surveyed said they receive regular cognitive assessments during routine health checkups according to the report. In contrast, 91 percent of seniors say their annual visits include a blood pressure check, and 83 percent say they include a cholesterol test.

A cognitive assessment only takes a few minutes and may include questions for the patient or the patient’s family, observing the patient’s interactions, and using short verbal or written tests.

Medicare has made a cognitive evaluation a required part of annual wellness visits, but many doctors remain hesitant to broach the subject of cognitive testing with older patients, often waiting for seniors to bring up troubling symptoms.

Cognitive tests make sense when a doctor suspects a problem, but they probably won’t become a routine practice until researchers develop an effective treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. Although the evidence on routine screening is lacking, there may be important reasons to identify early cognitive impairment. Brittany Elko from the Jewish Home talks about brain health and offers cogitative screens every month at the JCC in Kingston. Join the discussion and take an assessment to evaluate symptoms that might be raising concerns!

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