Ask Better Questions for Better Alzheimer's Screening

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The first step in identifying people at increased risk for Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other age-related memory problems is often a cognitive screening test. However, a small study conducted by researchers at Penn State University suggests that the wording of screening test questions can be confusing and/or trigger emotional responses in many older adults, affecting results.

The researchers asked 49 seniors without dementia a number of questions commonly used in Alzheimer’s screening and then asked follow-up questions about how and why the study participants answered the way they did. The goal of the study was to identify potential problems with the screening questions.

According to the Pennsylvania researchers, an analysis of the data revealed 13 different issues. The most common: Vagueness (multiple ways to interpret the question) and the assumption that behavior and experiences are consistent (for example, the respondent sometimes has trouble remembering what day it is, but not always). They also found that some questions — like ones asking study participants to compare themselves to others — evoked an emotional response tied to confidence and self-esteem.

Sourced from: The Gerontologist