Mandatory family input helps early detection of dementia


BEIJING, Feb. 7 (Xinhuanet) -- Mandatory family input could help overcome the barrier to early detection of dementia, according to geriatric specialists in the United States Tuesday. 

Dr. Laurel Coleman, geriatric physician at Maine Medical Center and member of a federal advisory council tackling dementia care, and colleagues are pushing for the first National Alzheimer's Plan to help overcome the barrier to early detection.

They have urged for what's called dementia-capable primary care, more screenings for warning signs and regular checks of caregivers' own physical and mental health.

They also suggested the check of caregivers in the same family should become an important factor when screening the diesease. For instance, a long-married couple in a familiar routine and surroundings can appear far more normal than they really are -- until something upsets that balancing act, like the caregiving spouse getting sick, according to Dr. Gary Kennedy, geriatric psychiatry chief at New York's Montefiore Medical Center.

How to get around the hidden-dementia conundrum? The geriatric specialists hold:

Medicare's new annual wellness visit pays for cognitive screening and simple tests that signal who should be referred for more extensive brain exams.

The U.S. government's Alzheimer's advisers want doctors to steer families toward advanced-care planning and early diagnosis, so patients have a say in how they want to be cared for while they're still capable of making those decisions.

Such steps are important, Kennedy said, because advancing dementia leaves people so unaware of their needs that they can take family or doctor input "as an affront."

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