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?
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