What About Memory Screening?

Contributed by: Dennis Fortier, President, Medical Care Corporation

Through earlier posts to this blog, we have presented the evidence and made the case that early intervention is a key part of optimal care for many memory-related diseases and disorders, especially for Alzheimer's disease. This begs questions about the value of community based memory screening programs.

As with most things in life, there are many perspectives on the value of community based memory screening. Some emphasize the benefits of identifying early stage problems and facilitating early intervention. Others decry the general lack of assessment standards and point out the many ways a poorly run program could harm the participants. For example, an insensitive assessment tool could erroneously reassure those who with a real medical condition (false negatives) and deter them from seeking care from their physician. On the other hand, an overly sensitive assessment approach could needlessly stress those who are aging normally (false positives) and instigate a series of unnecessary and costly diagnostic exams.

These facts are pretty clear:
- many people are concerned about memory loss
- a large percentage of those who are concerned are perfectly healthy
- the quality of care these concerned patients get through their primary care physicians ranges from very good to very bad.

As such, I think a well run screening program provides an opportunity for those most concerned about their memory to take a proactive approach, get some attention, and further their education about memory loss. As you may have seen in the news today, a national effort to support such programs has been supported by the Alzheimer's Foundation of America.

My one suggestion (which I will make to the AFA) is to strongly consider a renaming of these events with a switch from "screening" to "assessment". The former seems focused on finding illness and can carry some stigma, the latter is more geared toward understanding one's degree of health and learning to improve or maintain it.

I look forward to National Memory Assessment Day with optimism.

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