Wider dementia diagnosis criticised
Tuesday 10th September 2013, 5:10AM BST.
Older people are having to endure unnecessary investigation and potentially harmful treatment for something that is probably just simply part of ageing, experts warn.
It is the result of a political drive led by the UK and US where screening for minor memory changes will wrongly label many with dementia, the bmj.com website reports.
The US Medicare insurance programme will cover an annual wellness visit to a physician that includes a cognitive impairment test while in England, the Government has announced that it will reward general practitioners for assessing brain function in older patients.
Specialists in Australia and the UK say that expanding diagnosis of dementia, an age-related illness, will result in up to 65% of people aged over 80 having Alzheimer’s disease diagnosed – and up to 23% of non-demented older people being labelled with dementia, the bmj.com states.
They argue this policy is not backed by evidence and ignores the risks, harms and costs to individuals, families and societies. It may also divert resources that are badly needed for the care of people with advanced dementia.
With an ageing population it is likely that more focus may be shone on the issue.
New imaging methods and tests have been developed for diagnosis but there is still uncertainty about their accuracy, according to the specialists who include the Anzac Medical Research Institute and the Charles Perkins Centre, University of Sydney and Sydney Research.
They argue: “Current policy is rolling out untested and uncontrolled experiments in the frailest people in society without a rigorous evaluation of its benefits and harms to individuals, families, service settings, and professionals.”