woman with dementia sitting in chair

A primary care toolkit for brain health assessment and dementia diagnosis has gotten a much-needed update as more research points to the potential for better outcomes with earlier diagnoses, says the Gerontological Society of America.

The new edition of the GSA KAER Toolkit for Primary Care Teams, based on a model developed in 2015, is geared to primary care teams and other clinical providers who care for older adults. The new edition strongly emphasizes the importance of early documentation of mild cognitive impairment in patients’ medical records. Alerting current and future healthcare providers about changes in cognitive status can prevent missed opportunities, said toolkit reviewer Patricia Heyn, Ph.D., FGSA, of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.

“Early diagnosis can help identify forms of cognitive impairment that may even be reversible, including those caused by sleep problems, depression, alcohol consumption or medications,” Heyn said. “It can also help with new treatments and behavioral approaches that can improve a person’s daily living and quality of life such as correcting hearing loss and avoiding social isolation.”

The update includes a shorter, more accessible digital format; a new section on reimbursement for implementing steps in the toolkit; an expanded section on brain health and dementia risk factors; an updated table of cognitive assessment tools; and an expanded section on referral to community resources and randomized controlled trials.

“With the pending approval of a disease-modifying therapy, there is a renewed sense of urgency around improving early detection and diagnosis,” said GSA’s director of strategic alliances, Judit Illes, BCL/LLB, MS, who led the development of the new edition. “We hope that the KAER toolkit will help to accelerate change.”