Mental Decline Goes Unnoticed

Published Online: Saturday, November 1, 2003

    Physicians often miss the early warning signs of mental decline in the elderly. In a study, which began in 2000, psychiatrist Sanford Finkel, MD, of the University of Chicago Medical School found that as many as 28% of 2150 participants aged 65 and older showed signs of cognitive impairment. Their physicians, however, had noted the symptoms in the medical records of only 6% of the patients, and only 2% had been prescribed medication. Furthermore, doctors had diagnosed only a quarter of the 25% of the participants with symptoms of depression, according to Dr. Finkel.

    When diagnosing patients, physicians should look for changes in patients? routines, including lack of interest in housework or socializing, changes in sleep patterns, a lack of energy, or unexplained weight loss, said Dr. Finkel.

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