A large survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that 13 percent of Americans aged 60 and older reported worsening memory loss or confusion in the previous year, highlighting the need to be alert for early signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
The CDC collected data from almost 60,000 respondents in 21 states, all of whom were aged 59 or older. Of the 13 percent who had experienced increasing confusion or memory loss, over one-third also reported functional difficulties that interfered with their work, social activities, or ability to perform household chores. 80 percent of these seniors said they required regular assistance, but only half were able to receive help from a friend or family caregiver.
Memory loss tended to negatively affect younger seniors more severely, as the highest rates of functional difficulty were in respondents in the 60 to 64 age range (44.7 percent, versus 37.8 percent of those 85 and older). “These findings suggest a need for future studies to examine the relationship of age and functional difficulties caused by increased confusion or memory loss,” saidAmanda Deokar, a public health adviser at the CDC.
Also of note in the findings, only 32.6 percent of those who reported functional difficulties due to memory loss said they had discussed their symptoms with a health care provider. Deokar and her colleagues stress the need for providers to facilitate discussions with older adults about cognitive issues, as some causes for cognitive decline are reversible but must be treated as soon as possible. Early diagnosis can also provide opportunities for individuals and families to initiate financial planning, develop advance directives, enroll in clinical trials and anticipate future care needs.