Suddenly Jane can’t remember the ingredients in her popular cupcake recipe, even though she makes it for her family every Sunday. John’s in the middle of measuring something when he realizes he can’t recall how to read a ruler. Did I or did I not lock the front door when I got home from work? Sometimes, people experience what some call “brain farts” and other times it’s something a lot more severe. When patients come to you with experiences like these, it can be hard to know if it’s just old age or if it’s something more serious, like a form of dementia. It’s a tough call to make, as a physician. So, it’s about time that there are official, published Alzheimer’s guidelines for clinical practice that can help you navigate the care of these unique patients.
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This summer the Alzheimer’s Association released guidelines to clinicians on how to evaluate patients suspected of having Alzheimer’s disease. The goal is to improve the process of identifying Alzheimer’s and to educate physicians across specialties so that they can detect the disease sooner. In an interview with MedScape Medical News, Dr. Alireza Atri, MD, co-chair of the Alzheimer’s Association Diagnostic Evaluation Clinical Practice Guideline workgroup said, “These are the first US national guidelines aimed at multiple specialties. Most patients have 3 to 5 years of pretty serious symptoms before they are actually first evaluated, and that process can take over a year and a half, so hopefully, these guidelines will improve that.”
Alzheimer’s Guidelines for Clinical Practice: What Locum Tenens Should Know
So, what are the specifics of the Alzheimer’ guidelines for clinical practice? How can you apply them to your work as a locum tenens? The Alzheimer’s guidelines for clinical practice outline who physicians should evaluate and what exactly they should look for.
“The guidelines aren’t meant to burden the clinician,” Atri told Medscape. “They should empower the clinician and help guide them through the process. The guidelines might also help to reduce ambiguity and roadblocks encountered in health systems and insurance companies.”
Alzheimer’s Guidelines for Clinical Practice: How to Evaluate Patients
Here are three things that locum tenens should know about which patients to evaluate:
- Any patient who is middle-aged or older and reporting cognitive, behavioral or functional changes should be evaluated. Even if they themselves aren’t reporting it but their partner or physician is, evaluate them for dementia.
- It’s easy to dismiss these concerns as “normal aging,” but a proper assessment is absolutely necessary. The faster a clinician identifies Alzheimer’s the better.
- When evaluating someone for Alzheimer’s, it’s important that you include someone familiar to them in the process, such as their children or partner. The evaluation can be stressful and intimidating, so it’s always good to allow their support system to be there.
Alzheimer’s Guidelines for Clinical Practice: Next Steps After an Evaluation
There are certain steps to take or consider once you complete an evaluation:
- First, establish the presence and characteristics of changes to their cognitive behavior so that you can group them into categories
- Next, try to figure out what could be causing this behavior. You don’t want to look at this as an isolated incident. You should consider all of their other health factors, both physical and mental.
- Find the best way to explain what’s happening to them, and make sure you’re prepared to provide education once you deliver a diagnosis. This information isn’t going to be easy to hear, and it can be hard to process. You’ll want to be there for your patient to manage their care and support them and their family.
Did you read all of the new Alzheimer’s guidelines for clinical practice yet? What did you find most helpful or informative? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!