FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | March 26, 2014
ALZHEIMER'S FOUNDATION OF AMERICA STATEMENT ON TASK FORCE'S RECOMMENDATION ON SCREENING FOR DEMENTIA
NEW YORK (March 26, 2014) —The Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA), a national nonprofit organization dedicated to providing optimal care and services to people with dementia and their families, today issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force's (USPSTF) recommendation on universal screening for dementia in people ages 65 and older with no signs or symptoms of cognitive impairment. While the USPSTF found adequate evidence that some screening tools have sufficiently high sensitivity and specificity to be clinically useful in identifying dementia, the group found inadequate direct evidence on the benefits and harms of screening for cognitive impairment and of non-pharmacologic interventions. Said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., AFA's chief executive officer:
"The Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) is extremely disappointed with the decision of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). Cognitive screening is a simple and safe evaluation that assesses memory and other intellectual functions and can signal whether additional testing is necessary. In fact, it has been determined that use of brief instruments to screen for cognitive impairment can adequately detect dementia. Brief screening tests can raise red flags, leading to a diagnosis of both treatable conditions and irreversible conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease. Despite the lack of empirical evidence, the AFA believes that there are meaningful benefits to broader adoption of such screenings, and we are confident that further studies will validate that.
"Since 2003, AFA has provided free, confidential screenings at community sites to hundreds of thousands of people through its annual National Memory Screening Day initiative. AFA suggests such screenings for anyone who has memory concerns, who has a family history of memory problems, or who wants to check his memory now and for future comparison. While the results are not a diagnosis, they are a major first step toward proper detection of memory problems.
"Early detection of Alzheimer's disease can empower individuals and their families to take a more proactive approach to care planning and treatment and thus help improve quality of life. Individuals can take advantage of available treatments when they are most helpful, before symptoms have progressed. There is a substantial benefit to identifying a 65 year old with mild cognitive impairment who is currently in a stage in which FDA-approved medications can slow progression of symptoms and postpone costly nursing home placement. In addition, identification of those with pre-symptomatic dementia is critical for participation in clinical trials as research into promising drug therapies is taking place earlier in the disease progression.
"While the USPSTF's recommendation statement acknowledges that expert consensus guidelines support early detection of cognitive decline, its recommendation dismisses mounting evidence that there are benefits to screening. Moreover, this recommendation could discourage further research into cognitive screening if third party payers do not reimburse for this vital assessment tool.
"With the incidence of Alzheimer's disease continuing to climb to staggering heights, we cannot afford to dismiss the benefits of early detection and treatment."
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About Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA)
The Alzheimer's Foundation of America, based in New York, is a national nonprofit organization that unites more than 1,600 member organizations nationwide with the goal of providing optimal care and services to individuals confronting dementia, and to their caregivers and families. Its services include a toll-free helpline staffed by licensed social workers, educational materials, a free quarterly magazine for caregivers, and professional training. For more information about AFA, call toll-free 866-232-8484, visit www.alzfdn.org, follow us on Twitter (@alzfdn), or connect with us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/AlzheimersFoundationofAmerica.
Contact: Amanda (Hirschhorn) Secor