Online tool helps seniors determine dementia risk

Attention to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia issues has ratcheted up significantly in recent months. Whether it’s a result of effective lobbying by various associations and medical groups or simply the Baby Boomers waking up to aging-related maladies, a slew of government funding, studies, and assessment tools are coming to market in the battle on the debilitating condition.

Johns Hopkins’ researchers are among the frontline warriors. They’ve developed a quick online assessment tool designed to help worried seniors find out if they are at risk of developing dementia and determine whether they should seek a comprehensive, face-to-face diagnosis from a physician.

The tool, which is being refined and validated, is not meant to replace a full evaluation from a doctor that includes a physical exam, blood work, imaging studies, and more. Instead this assessment provides a scientific way to help a person educate herself about a disease that doctors now believe is best managed if caught early, according to a press release from the university.

“As the population ages and dementia becomes more prevalent, it’s important to get people diagnosed early,” said Jason Brandt, PhD, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and the leader of the study appearing online in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia. “Alzheimer’s disease and other type of dementia don’t just creep up on you. They’re incubating for decades in the brain. This tool is potentially very useful in determining who is at risk.”

Among the questions asked on the Dementia Risk Assessment are about whether a person has a history of high blood pressure, depression, diabetes, high cholesterol, or head injury, all of which are considered well-documented risk factors for dementia. The assessment also includes a simple memory test that could point to a subtle cognitive decline.

Topics: Alzheimer's/Dementia