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Towards evidence-based dementia screening in Australia

Zoe Terpening, John R Hodges and Nicholas J Cordato
Med J Aust 2011; 194 (2): 60-61.
Published online: 17 January 2011

Effective dementia care depends on early and accurate diagnosis

It is predicted that over the next 40 years there will be a fourfold increase in the prevalence of dementia in Australia, as well as considerably more people with milder forms of cognitive impairment.1 To date, despite extensive research, no effective treatment for established dementia is available. As a result, taskforce policymakers conclude that there is insufficient evidence at present to warrant routine screening for dementia syndromes.2,3 However, emerging evidence shows that early non-pharmacological intervention can improve cognitive outcomes for patients with milder forms of cognitive impairment and those at risk of cognitive decline.4 Early diagnosis also enables patients to plan, with their caregivers, for the future, and deal with matters such as enduring power of attorney authorisation, before they lose the capacity to do so. Over two-thirds of people who notice symptoms of cognitive decline consult a physician for evaluation.5 However, up to 90% of mild cases are missed at the initial primary care assessment.6,7 So how can we improve early detection of cognitive impairment, and what evidence base do we have for dementia screening in Australia?

  • Zoe Terpening1
  • John R Hodges2
  • Nicholas J Cordato3

  • 1 Ageing Brain Centre, Brain and Mind Research Institute, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW.
  • 2 Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute, Sydney, NSW.
  • 3 Department of Aged Care, St George Hospital and Calvary Rehabilitation and Geriatric Service, Calvary Health Care, Sydney, NSW.


Competing interests:

Nicholas Cordato has received a grant from the Medical Foundation, University of Sydney, to research Alzheimer’s disease.

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