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Modifying barriers to screening for memory loss


L to R: Drs. Tappan, Weise & Williams

Our current featured article presents an analysis of research that provides evidence for removing barriers to cognitive screening in rural populations.  The article, titled “Analysis of Barriers to Cognitive Screening in Rural Populations in the United States,” is by Florida Atlantic University scholars  Lisa Kirk Wiese, PhD, RN; Christine L. Williams, RN, DNSc, PMHCHS-BC and Ruth M. Tappen, RN, EdD, FAAN.  You can access their article without charge on the ANS web site while it is featured!  They have each prepared a message for ANS readers, plus a video sharing some background about their work.  We welcome your comments and perspectives on this important work in the comments below!

Dr. Wiese: I became interested in research about cognitive screening in rural populations as I am from WV and my mother has Alzheimer’s disease.  WV has the second highest percentage of older adults in the country, and is the only state that lies completely in Appalachia.  Appalachia has the highest sustained rates of poverty in the US, higher rates of diabetes and hypertension, less health insurance, and is less educated than the rest of the country.

Dr. Williams: Rural populations overall have a high incidence of dementia yet unique barriers to screening hinder awareness of the risk. Appalachians have geographical challenges that impact access to care. Early recognition of cognitive impairment is vital because the medications we have available to slow cognitive decline are more effective when patients are treated early. Early detection may help prevent negative consequences by ruling out treatable conditions that can cause cognitive impairment such as medication effects, cardiovascular conditions, or depression; offering treatments of cognitive and behavioral symptoms; maintaining the patients’ safety; and facilitating support for caregivers.

Dr. Tappen: Although public awareness of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) has increased exponentially, there are still many myths and misunderstandings particularly among underserved populations. In prior research done with urban underserved populations, participants described the effect of AD on the brain as “the brain collapsing in on itself.” Others talked about shaking and tremors, probably confusing AD with Parkinson’s disease and several mentioned becoming “like a baby” again. Myths and misunderstandings about AD are often a barrier to cognitive screening.


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