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New brief tool to screen for cognitive impairment in elderly patients
Date:11/9/2010

BOSTONDementia and cognitive impairment are widespread among elderly individuals in the United States, affecting more than 8 million people to some degree.

The Sweet 16, a new screening test developed by a team of geriatricians and neurologists at the Institute for Aging Research of Hebrew SeniorLife and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, could help clinicians more rapidly detect dementia in elderly patients. The Sweet 16 will be available without charge to any nonprofit organization, and may provide an alternative to the Mini-Mental State Examination. The findings are described in the Nov. 8, 2010 online issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.

"A recent study showed that more than 30 percent of hospitalized patients over age 75 had some degree of cognitive impairment," says lead author Tamara Fong, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant scientist at the Institute for Aging Research. "While the public health impact of cognitive impairment, including loss of independence, decreased quality of life, and increased health-care costs, is clear, this condition is often underrecognized in health-care settings."

Routine measurements of cognitive function can help clinicians detect dementia at earlier stages, which, in turn, helps them better assess the severity of the disease, as well as to identify individuals at risk of developing delirium or functional impairments that could impair driving or otherwise pose a safety risk.

The Sweet 16 screening test consists of 16 measurements, designed to be implemented in a time frame of two to three minutes. Unlike previous assessment methods, the Sweet 16 does not rely on any props and does not require pencil or paper, which makes it more useful in or at the hospital bedside. Furthermore, notes Dr. Fong, unlike other cognitive screening tests, the Sweet 16 has been specially designed to accurately characterize mental status without influence by a patient's education or other sociodemographic factors.

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Contact: Scott Edwards
edwards@hsl.harvard.edu
781-247-8172
Hebrew SeniorLife Institute for Aging Research
Source:Eurekalert

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