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New Alzheimer’s Disease Survey Reveals Disparities between Beliefs and Behavior In Pursuing Diagnosis

The Alzheimer’s Disease Screening Discussion Group (ADSDG) recently conducted a survey. They found that most adults 55 and over lack knowledge about Alzheimer’s disease.

* About 75 percent thought they could identify signs of Alzheimer’s disease in themselves or a loved one.

* Yet, when presented with a list of symptoms, more than 90 percent were confused about which symptoms were associated with early signs of Alzheimer’s.

According to the study:

* 34 percent have a loved one who they suspect might have Alzheimer’s.

* Yet of those people, only about 40 percent encouraged their loved one to talk to a doctor about it.


Results Indicate the Need for Adults Age 55 and Over to Know the Signs of Alzheimer’s and Take Immediate Action Once Symptoms are Suspected

Despite overwhelming support for early Alzheimer’s disease (AD) screening and detection, there are striking differences between intentions and actual behavior, according to a new online survey of 1,040 adults age 55 and over titled, “Alzheimer’s Disease: Current Attitudes, Perceptions, and Knowledge.” Nearly 95 percent agree that they would encourage a loved one to seek early diagnosis upon suspecting signs of AD.1 However, of the 34 percent who previously thought a loved one had the disease,1 only about one-quarter prompted that person to take an AD screener1 and less than 40 percent encouraged initiating a conversation with his or her doctor.1

The survey also found that more than 90 percent of adults age 55 and over are unable to identify the difference between early disease symptoms, late disease symptoms, and symptoms unrelated to AD,1 despite the fact that 78 percent believe they could recognize signs of the disease in themselves or a loved one.1

The online survey was conducted by Harris Interactive and commissioned by the Alzheimer’s Disease Screening Discussion Group (ADSDG), a consortium of multi-disciplinary experts in AD and senior health. The ADSDG issued a consensus statement in November 2007, recommending routine memory screenings for Americans 65 years of age and older and encouraging increased public education about AD. This year, the group commissioned this national survey as a next step to better understand public perceptions, attitudes, and knowledge about the disease, screening, and diagnosis. Both the survey and the ADSDG were sponsored by Eisai Inc. and Pfizer Inc.

“Last year the Alzheimer’s Disease Screening Discussion Group encouraged seniors to become more familiar with the first signs of Alzheimer’s in order to facilitate earlier screening and diagnosis,” said Dr. Richard Stefanacci, founding executive director, Geriatric Health Program, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, survey co-chair and member of the ADSDG. “This new survey shows us that close friends and relatives are not encouraging their loved ones to take action, and perhaps that’s because they’re not confident in their ability to identify Alzheimer’s symptoms. The unfortunate result is that many patients may not get diagnosed until the disease is in its later stages.”

In support of this theory, another key survey finding was that while the majority of adults age 55 and over recognizes that family members of the person with AD are most likely to notice the need for screening,1 many admit they are not very knowledgeable about the disease,1 and are confused about its symptoms.1 Moreover, nearly one-third of those surveyed are not aware that there are AD medications currently available1 and about 85 percent of those who are aware do not understand how treatment works.1

“There are many reasons to seek out an Alzheimer’s diagnosis soon after first symptoms are suspected,” said Dr. Paul R. Solomon, professor, department of psychology and program in neuroscience, Williams College; clinical director, The Memory Clinic in Bennington, VT; and survey co-chair and member of the ADSDG. “Not only are there treatments that can slow the progression of symptoms, but an early diagnosis also gives the patient and their loved ones more time to adjust to the news and make important decisions together before the disease advances, impacting the patients’ ability to interact and function.”

These survey results are particularly important given the rise of AD as the baby boomer population ages – up to 16 million are estimated to have the disease by 2050.2 The ADSDG encourages everyone with a loved one age 55 and over to visit to learn more about the disease, its signs, and symptoms, and complete an online memory screener on behalf of a loved one if symptoms are suspected. Key differences between early signs of disease and normal aging include3:

Normal Aging                       Potential Signs of AD

Forgetting names of Forgetting the names of
people you rarely see people close to you

Briefly forgetting part Forgetting a recent
of an experience experience

Occasionally misplacing Not being able to
something find important things

Mood changes due to an Having unpredictable
appropriate cause mood changes

Changes in your interests Decreased interest in
outside activities

Original Content the Alzheimer’s Reading Room

About the Alzheimer’s Disease Screening Discussion Group (ADSDG)

The ADSDG is a multi-disciplinary panel of experts sponsored by Eisai/Pfizer Inc and first convened in November 2007 to debate the value of AD detection and routine screening. ADSDG members include:

* Dr. Paul R. Solomon, professor, department of psychology and program in neuroscience, Williams College, MA; clinical director, The Memory Clinic, Bennington, VT; and survey co-chair

* Dr. Richard Stefanacci, founding executive director, Geriatric Health Program, University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, survey co-chair

* Dr. Barry W. Rovner, director, clinical Alzheimer’s disease research at the Farber Institute for Neurosciences, and professor of psychiatry and neurology, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia

* Dr. Yanira Cruz, president and CEO, National Hispanic Council on Aging
* Gail Hunt, president and CEO, National Alliance for Caregiving
* Janet Farr, Alzheimer’s disease Caregiver

About the Survey

This AD survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive on behalf of Eisai/Pfizer between May 12 and June 4, 2008, among 1,040 U.S. adults age 55 and over. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.

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Posted by on September 29, 2008 in alzheimer's, health, science, study, survey

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