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Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 33, Issue 7, pp 1131–1138 | Cite as

Underdiagnosis of Dementia: an Observational Study of Patterns in Diagnosis and Awareness in US Older Adults

  • Halima Amjad
  • David L. Roth
  • Orla C. Sheehan
  • Constantine G. Lyketsos
  • Jennifer L. Wolff
  • Quincy M. Samus
Original Research

Abstract

Background

Many older adults living with dementia have not been formally diagnosed. Even when clinicians document the diagnosis, patients and families may be unaware of the diagnosis. Knowledge of how individual characteristics affect detection and awareness of dementia is limited.

Objective

To identify characteristics associated with dementia diagnosis and awareness of diagnosis.

Design

Cross-sectional observational study.

Participants

Five hundred eighty-five adults aged ≥ 65 in the National Health and Aging Trends Study who met assessment-based study criteria for probable dementia in 2011 and had 3 years of continuous, fee-for-service Medicare claims prior to 2011.

Main Measures

Using multivariable logistic regression, we compared participants with undiagnosed versus diagnosed dementia (based on Medicare claims) on demographic, social/behavioral, functional, medical, and healthcare utilization characteristics. Among those diagnosed, we compared characteristics of participants unaware versus aware of the diagnosis (based on self or proxy report).

Key Results

Among older adults with probable dementia, 58.7% were either undiagnosed (39.5%) or unaware of the diagnosis (19.2%). In adjusted analyses, individuals who were Hispanic (OR 2.48, 95% CI 1.19, 5.14), had less than high school education (OR 0.54 for at least high school education, 95% CI 0.32, 0.91), attended medical visits alone (OR 1.98, 95% CI 1.11, 3.51), or had fewer functional impairments (OR 0.79 for each impairment, 95% CI 0.69, 0.90) were more likely to be undiagnosed. Similarly, among those diagnosed, having less education (OR 0.42), attending medical visits alone (OR 1.97), and fewer functional impairments (OR 0.72) were associated with unawareness of diagnosis (all ps < 0.05).

Conclusions

The majority of older adults with dementia are either undiagnosed or unaware of the diagnosis, suggesting shortcomings in detection and communication of dementia. Individuals who may benefit from targeted screening include racial/ethnic minorities and persons who have lower educational attainment, any functional impairment, or attend medical visits alone.

Keywords

Geriatrics Dementia Alzheimer’s Diagnosis Vulnerable populations 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Prior presentations

This paper was presented at the International Association of Gerontology and Geriatrics (IAGG) World Congress in San Francisco, California on July 25, 2017.

Funders

The National Health and Aging Trends Study (NHATS) is funded by the National Institute on Aging (U01AG032947). Dr. Amjad received funding from the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences/Johns Hopkins Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (KL2TR001077).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Dr. Lyketsos has served as a paid consultant for Astra-Zeneca, Glaxo-Smith Kline, Eisai, Novartis, Forest, Supernus, Adlyfe, Takeda, Wyeth, Lundbeck, Merz, Lilly, Pfizer, Genentech, Elan, NFL Players Association, NFL Benefits Office, Avanir, Zinfandel, BMS, Abvie, Janssen, Orion, Otsuka, and Astellas. He has also received honoraria or travel support from Pfizer, Forest, Glaxo-Smith Kline, and Health Monitor. Drs. Amjad, Roth, Sheehan, Wolff, and Samus declare that they do not have a conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Halima Amjad
    • 1
    • 2
  • David L. Roth
    • 1
    • 2
  • Orla C. Sheehan
    • 1
    • 2
  • Constantine G. Lyketsos
    • 3
  • Jennifer L. Wolff
    • 2
    • 4
  • Quincy M. Samus
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Division of Geriatric Medicine and Gerontology Johns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.Johns Hopkins University Center on Aging and HealthBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral SciencesJohns Hopkins University School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  4. 4.Department of Health Policy and ManagementJohns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public HealthBaltimoreUSA

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