Early Detection of Alzheimer's Disease Enables Caregivers to Delay Admission to Nursing Homes

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Providing counselling services to the caregivers of patients with Alzheimer’s disease can delay or prevent patients from entering a long-term care facility, such as a nursing home, and reduce private and public health costs, according to a new journal report.


“When cognitive impairment is identified, COGNIGRAMTM enables support services to be initiated.”

A research team based in the School of Nursing & Center for Aging at the University of Minnesota found that adult children could significantly delay the institutionalization of their parents with Alzheimer’s disease or a related-dementia if they were supported with emotional and social services. Importantly, this benefit was achieved without incurring distress or negative mental health effects for the caregiver.

Delaying or preventing admission to a long-term residential care program can save up $41,000 per year per patient, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services data. Alzheimer’s disease and similar dementia patients utilise residential care facilities at more than eight times the rate of patients without cognitive impairment.

Dr. Paul Maruff, Chief Scientific Officer of Cogstate, said identifying cognitive decline at an early stage would empower caregivers to access counselling and support services at the earliest possible stage and help them plan for the future.

“Preventing or delaying the number of patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias from entering an assisted living facility will save money for the patient, their caregiver and ultimately the government,” Dr Maruff said.

For caregivers to initiate access to support services, primary care physicians require the tools to accurately and sensitively quantify cognitive decline in its earliest stages. The patient should meet a certain benchmark for cognitive decline that is highly specific and sensitive to Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

COGNIGRAMTM is a web-based system that provides a brief, standardized, valid assessment of cognitive function to assist physicians in the detection and monitoring of subtle cognitive change over time. COGNIGRAMTM has been validated to assess subtle cognitive impairment and monitor cognitive change associated with mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

COGNIGRAMTM utilizes the Cogstate Brief Battery, a computerized cognitive assessment scientifically developed to assess change using simple visual stimuli in four critical cognitive domains: psychomotor function, attention, learning and memory, as well as working memory. The Cogstate Brief Battery is supported by more than a decade of peer-reviewed research.

“Detecting Alzheimer’s disease at its earliest stages has become the focus of scientific research as the best way to help treat the disease and give caregivers and family members the time to plan for the future,” Dr. Maruff said. “When cognitive impairment is identified, COGNIGRAMTM enables support services to be initiated.”

Dr. Maruff said the assessment also classifies cognitive impairment that may not yet warrant support services, but require tracking under a follow-up program.

“For example, a patient may show abnormal cognition that is not yet sufficient to qualify for support services, but that same patient can be retested in six months to ensure that support services are provided at the right time,” he said. “This also allows the physician to monitor the rate of change of cognitive function over time.”

Cogstate’s technology has been used globally by pharmaceutical companies to quantify the effect of drugs or other interventions in people participating in clinical trials. COGNIGRAMTM was launched in Canada in 2012.