Undiagnosed dementia is a growing problem among aging Americans and a new study finds that nearly 6 out of 10 Medicare recipients with probable dementia are either undiagnosed or do not know about their diagnosis. Researchers reviewed data from 585 Medicare patients and found that many seniors with dementia are either undiagnosed because they are functioning well enough to fly under the radar or they are unaware of their diagnosis, possibly due to memory problems, language barriers or other communication problems.
According to a recent report by HealthDay News, seniors with lower levels of education and those who go to doctor appointments alone are among those unaware of their dementia. Older adults who have less difficulty with daily tasks are more likely to not know of their diagnosis. And Hispanic seniors are also at increased risk for undiagnosed dementia, according to the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine study. This research highlights the potential need for targeted dementia screening among vulnerable groups of seniors.
Early diagnosis of dementia is important to help improve or maintain the health of patients but also to allow families times to plan for future care. It is estimated that nearly 5.7 million Americans have dementia but only about half of them have received a diagnosis from a doctor, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Having a family companion present during older adults’ primary care visits can be invaluable to help seniors fully understand their health, have pertinent questions answered and ensure proper follow-up care. Advocating for the healthcare of a elderly loved-one is an important part of caregiving and can ensure older patients receive early interventions and treatment that can prevent or slow the progression of chronic health problems. By creating a list of questions, taking notes and following up on future appointments and medication management, trusted loved ones can help seniors better manage their care and plan for the future.