A new set of recommendations from the Milken Institute identifies key ways to engage direct care workers in improving timely dementia detection and diagnosis in a variety of healthcare settings, including specialty care.

Although it is a leading cause of death in the United States, and the number of people with the condition is growing, dementia continues to be underdiagnosed or caught in its later stages, according to the report, released on Tuesday. Researchers estimate that the disease could be undiagnosed in 40% to 60% of adults with probable dementia, presenting a growing problem, the authors said.

“Individuals with dementia can face medication mismanagement, burdensome out-of-pocket costs for care, and continuation of risk factors that can accelerate cognitive decline,” they contended.

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The report, “Building Dementia Workforce Capacity to Improve Screening and Diagnosis,” is a product of the organization’s Alliance to Improve Dementia Care.It details three major themes that emerged from an expert roundtable, including promoting timely detection of cognitive impairment in primary care settings; increasing awareness and education of healthcare professionals and consumers; and broadening access and interprofessional coordination in detection, diagnosis and care delivery.

Among its solutions, the think tank proposes that consumer demand and expectation of routine cognitive assessments must be encouraged by raising awareness of the benefits of early diagnosis. Structured cognitive assessments should also be routinely used during Medicare Annual Wellness Visits, and a business case should be made to demonstrate the return on investment for timely detection of cognitive impairment in the primary care setting, the organization added.

“Early detection and diagnosis of dementia can allow individuals and their families to plan for the road ahead,” said Nora Super, executive director of the Milken Institute’s Alliance to Improve Dementia Care. “Through this report, we aim to equip healthcare professionals with proven tools and resources to detect and diagnose dementia in a timely manner, encourage individuals to pursue cognitive screenings to track their brain health, and offer guidance for policymakers on best practices and existing solutions,” she concluded.

The report can be downloaded here.

This article was originally published on McKnights Long Term Care News