Relatives are better at recognizing Alzheimer’s

It makes sense that you would be the first to recognize the start of cognitive decline in those you are closest to. So a study in the journal Brain that relatives spot the signs of memory loss that can indicate Alzheimer’s disease better than a screening test typically used by doctors should come as no surprise.

Still as my colleague Marie McCullough wrote in a short piece in Monday’s Health & Science section, early detection could help devise a plan of care, so perhaps more weight should be given to those closest to us when doctors look for signs of Alzheimer’s.

Here’s the item by Marie that appeared on Monday:

Family members are better at recognizing early signs of Alzheimer’s disease than the traditional screening test, according to a study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

People with memory problems and confusion are typically evaluated by a test of mental and cognitive functions. Then, analysis of “biomarkers” — abnormalities in spinal fluid and the brain — may be used to confirm a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.

In the study, published online in the journal Brain, researchers gave a two-minute questionnaire to relatives or close friends of 257 elderly people who had undergone traditional screening and biomarker testing. The informants rated their loved ones in eight areas, including: forgetting the month, year or appointments; reduced interest in hobbies; poor judgment; and difficulty handling financial affairs.

The brief ratings corresponded with biomarker results more consistently than did the screening test scores.

The ratings “may improve strategies for detecting dementia in community settings where” biomarker tests may be unavailable, the researchers concluded.


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