Percentage of patients, regardless of age, with a diagnosis of dementia for whom an assessment of cognition is performed and the results reviewed at least once within a 12-month period
An estimated 5.8 million of adults in the US were living with dementia in 2019. Dementia is often characterized by the gradual onset and continuing cognitive decline in one or more domains including memory, communication and language, ability to focus or pay attention, reasoning and judgment and visual perception (Alzheimer’s Association, 2019). Cognitive deterioration represents a major source of morbidity and mortality and poses a significant burden on affected individuals and their caregivers (Daviglus et al., 2010). Although cognitive deterioration follows a different course depending on the type of dementia, significant rates of decline have been reported. For example, one study found that the annual rate of decline for Alzheimer's disease patients was more than four times that of older adults with no cognitive impairment (Wilson et al., 2010). Nevertheless, measurable cognitive abilities remain throughout the course of dementia (American Psychiatric Association, 2007). Initial and ongoing assessments of cognition are fundamental to the proper management of patients with dementia. These assessments serve as the basis for identifying treatment goals, developing a treatment plan, monitoring the effects of treatment, and modifying treatment as appropriate.
Clinical Recommendation Statements
Ongoing assessment includes periodic monitoring of the development and evolution of cognitive and noncognitive psychiatric symptoms and their response to intervention (Category I). Both cognitive and noncognitive neuropsychiatric and behavioral symptoms of dementia tend to evolve over time, so regular monitoring allows detection of new symptoms and adaptation of treatment strategies to current needs... Cognitive symptoms that almost always require assessment include impairments in memory, executive function, language, judgment, and spatial abilities. It is often helpful to track cognitive status with a structured simple examination (American Psychiatric Association, 2007).
The American Psychiatric Association recommends that patients with dementia be assessed for the type, frequency, severity, pattern, and timing of symptoms (Category 1C). Quantitative measures provide a structured replicable way to document the patient's baseline symptoms and determine which symptoms (if any) should be the target of intervention based on factors such as frequency of occurrence, magnitude, potential for associated harm to the patient or others, and associated distress to the patient. The exact frequency at which measures are warranted will depend on clinical circumstances. However, use of quantitative measures as treatment proceeds allows more precise tracking of whether nonpharmacological and pharmacological treatments are having their intended effect or whether a shift in the treatment plan is needed (American Psychiatric Association, 2016).
Conduct and document an assessment and monitor changes in cognitive status using a reliable and valid instrument, e.g., Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA), Ascertain Dementia 8 (AD8) or other tool. Cognitive status should be reassessed periodically to identify sudden changes, as well as to monitor the potential beneficial or harmful effects of environmental changes (including safety, care needs, and abuse and/or neglect), specific medications (both prescription and non-prescription, for appropriate use and contraindications), or other interventions. Proper assessment requires the use of a standardized, objective instrument that is relatively easy to use, reliable (with less variability between different assessors), and valid (results that would be similar to gold-standard evaluations) (California Department of Public Health, 2017).
Recommendation: Perform regular, comprehensive person-centered assessments and timely interim assessments. Assessments, conducted at least every 6 months, should prioritize issues that help the person with dementia to live fully. These include assessments of the individual and care partner’s relationships and subjective experience and assessment of cognition, behavior, and function, using reliable and valid tools. Assessment is ongoing and dynamic, combining nomothetic (norm based) and idiographic (individualized) approaches (Fazio, Pace, Maslow, Zimmerman, & Kallmyer, 2018)
Recommendation: Assess cognitive status, functional abilities, behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia, medical status, living environment, and safety. Reassess regularly and when there is a significant change in condition (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2016).