What older adults do with the results of dementia screening programs

PLoS One. 2020 Jul 1;15(7):e0235534. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0235534. eCollection 2020.


Introduction: Alzheimer's disease and related dementias (ADRD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI) are often under-recognized in the community. MCI/ADRD screening could offer benefits such as early treatment, research participation, lifestyle modification, and advanced care planning. To date, there are no clear guidelines regarding the benefits vs. harms of dementia screening or whether a dementia screening program could be successful.

Methods: A community-based study was conducted to evaluate an MCI/ADRD screening program and determine what older adults would do with the information. Measures of cognition, physical health, functionality, and mood were collected. Participants met with a health professional, were given screening results with recommendations, and then contacted 60 days later to determine what was done with the results. Logistic regression models were used to build predictive models.

Results: Participants (n = 288) had a mean age of 71.5±8.3y, mean education of 13.3±4.8y, and were 70% female, 67% White, 26% African American, and 48% Hispanic. After 60 days, 75% of participants were re-contacted; 54% shared results with family, 33% shared results with health care providers (HCPs), and 52% initiated behavioral change. Among participants sharing results with HCPs, 51% reported HCPs did not follow-up on the results, and 18% that HCPs did not show any interest in the screening visit or its results. Predictors of sharing results with HCPs were elevated hemoglobin A1C (OR = 1.85;95%CI:1.19-2.88), uncontrolled hypertension (OR = 2.73;95%CI:1.09-6.83), and mobility issues (OR = 2.43;95%CI: 1.93-5.54). Participant behavioral changes included lifestyle modification (58%), social engagement (10%), cognitive stimulation (5%), and advanced care planning (4%). The most significant predictors of sharing with family were better overall mental health (OR = 0.19; 95%CI: 0.06-0.59) and better physical function (OR = 0.38; 95%CI: 0.17-0.81).

Discussion: MCI/ADRD screening was well-received by a diverse community sample. Participants showed interest in sharing the results with their family and HCPs and many attempted behavioral change. While HCPs did not always act on screening results, 25% ordered further testing and evaluation. Efforts need to be directed toward (1) increasing self-efficacy of older adults to discuss screening results with their HCPs, and (2) educating HCPs on the value of early detection of MCI/ADRD. Community dementia screening programs can increase MCI/ADRD detection and improve patient-centered outcomes and medical decision-making.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Affect
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cognition
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Dementia / diagnosis*
  • Dementia / physiopathology
  • Dementia / psychology
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / psychology*
  • Mass Screening / statistics & numerical data
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Compliance / statistics & numerical data
  • Residence Characteristics / statistics & numerical data