On Wednesday, we tweeted a letter from Dr. Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H. (right), commissioner of the New York State Department of Health, that urges New York state physicians to assess cognitive impairment in their patients. We’re happy to share it with you today.
Dr. Shah’s letter expresses concern that the impact of Alzheimer’s disease in New York state is much larger than what is reflected in public health data due to two reasons: lack of awareness for early detection and diagnosis and recognition of Alzheimer’s as a cause of death.
The letter was sent to the tens of thousands of physicians licensed to practice and teach in New York state, as well as the diagnostic centers and schools where they teach.
Download the letter or read the contents of the letter below.
In New York there are an estimated 320,000 individuals with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The number of New Yorkers with Alzheimer’s disease is likely underrepresented due to the lack of early detection/ diagnosis and under-reporting on death certificates. The New York State Department of Health (Department) strongly urges health care personnel to consider the importance of early detection/diagnosis of cognitive impairment and dementia. There are numerous benefits of early detection:
- Symptoms of some dementias can be reversed
- Increased treatment options and access to information, services, and support
- Advance planning for health, housing, finance and care and risk reduction
- Option to participate in clinical trials recruiting individuals in the early stages of dementia
- Relief gained from better understanding by patients and caregivers
- Better overall health outcomes
- Reduced health care costs
The Alzheimer’s Association has released new recommendations to help clinicians detect cognitive impairment during Annual Medicare Wellness Visits. The recommendations provide comprehensive guidance on how to assess for cognitive impairment in primary care settings during a time- limited office visit. Detecting possible cognitive impairment is the first step in determining whether or not a patient needs further evaluation. For more information about the comprehensive guidance on how to assess in primary care settings, please go to the following link: http://www.alz.org/health-care-professionals/cognitive-tests-patient-assessment.asp.
If you do have a patient with suspected or diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease or another dementia, please refer them to the local support resources in your area. The Department supports the Alzheimer’s Disease Community Assistance Program, contact information is available at http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/conditions/dementia/help.htm. If you have questions about this letter or identification of dementia, please contact the Department’s Alzheimer’s Program at 518.474.0662 or one of the Alzheimer’s Disease Assistance Centers at this link: http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/conditions/dementia/alzheimer/adac_map.htm.
In closing, I want to reiterate the importance of assessing for cognitive impairment. The Department continues to work with local and national organizations to promote awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and make strides toward finding a prevention or cure while providing support for the many individuals and families affected by this disease. Please visit the Department website for additional information on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias at http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/conditions/dementia/.
Thank you for working with us to promote the health of all New Yorkers.
Nirav R. Shah, M.D., M.P.H.
Commissioner of Health