Nearly two-thirds of older adults were willing to undergo telephone screening for dementia, according to a new study. Findings also showed that willingness to be screened by phone did not differ by sex, age or race.

OT_News-01Researchers from the Indiana University Center for Aging Research and the Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis found the two most significant predictors of willingness to be screened by phone were belief in benefits of early knowledge of cognitive decline and having a friend or relative with Alzheimer’s disease.

Study findings were published in the Journal of Aging Research.

The 400 adults ages 65 and older in the study were patients of physicians affiliated with two large community healthcare systems in Indianapolis. None of the patients had a dementia diagnosis, and less than 2% reported being told by their physician that they suspected memory problems.

Patient willingness to be screened for dementia by phone was determined via a phone survey of older primary care patients. The 63.7% willingness rate was significant although lower than the 89.7% willingness rate of patients who were queried in face-to-face interviews as reported by IU Center for Aging Research and Regenstrief Institute researchers in a 2012 study.

Nicole Fowler, PhD

Nicole Fowler, PhD

“Despite rising incidence rates of Alzheimer’s and other dementias, many individuals with cognitive impairment are not screened. They go unrecognized and thus never receive evaluation or diagnosis,” Nicole Fowler, PhD, an IU Center for Aging Research and Regenstrief Institute investigator who led both studies, said in a news release. “Understanding patients’ attitude about the risk and benefits of early identification of dementia is vital as we evaluate potential screening barriers and facilitators.”

In 2013, the U. S. Preventive Services Task Force concluded the evidence to routinely screen for dementia in primary care is insufficient because of a lack of studies evaluating the risks, benefits and patient perspectives of the value of dementia screening.

“Our study provides insight into what patients think about dementia screening,” Fowler said in the release. “In addition to informing policymakers and researchers, we should make community physicians and others outside the academic community more aware of both the benefits of informing older adults about screening options for dementia and the willingness of this group to undergo screening either in person or by telephone.”

Telephone screening is less burdensome to the patient and possibly to the physician’s staff, she said in the release.

Study co-authors are Anthony J. Perkins, MS, Hilary A. Turchan, BS, and Amie Frame, MPH, of the IU Center for Aging Research and the Regenstrief Institute; Patrick Monahan, PhD, and Sujuan Gao, PhD, of the IU School of Medicine; and Malaz Boustani, MD, MPH, of the IU Center for Aging Research, Regenstrief Institute and the IU School of Medicine. Boustani is also the chief operating officer of the Center for Health Innovation and Implementation Science.

This work was supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging.

Full study: