Sunday 22 October 2017

Warning over use of home tests to detect Alzheimer's

Caroline Crawford

Caroline Crawford

A LEADING consultant has warned against using memory tests and surveys to check for early onset Alzheimer's disease.

Dr Shaun O'Keeffe, a consultant geriatrician at University College Hospital, Galway, said he believed such tests were not helpful and left people anxious and stressed at a time when there was little that could be done for their condition.

Dr O'Keeffe said that anyone with concerns about Alzheimer's should avoid home-screening techniques and seek medical advice.

"A general screening process throughout the population is not a good idea. We don't need to know the first moment somebody has something. We now have interventions but there are no cures," he added.

Dr O'Keeffe said that there was no proof from such surveys and they were not helpful to anxious patients.

"They should seek assistance when there is a distinct cause for concern or they are bothered about somebody they fear may have it.

"I certainly don't want people going down the road of taking random surveys or administering memory tests population wide to check for Alzheimer's. It's not appropriate," he said.

He added that there was a notable increase in the number of people with Alzheimer's being referred to him.

"The big change is that people are being diagnosed in a more timely manner and that is a good thing."

CONCERNS

He said it was important to distinguish between population screening and a timely diagnosis. "It's certainly appropriate for people who have concerns to seek assistance," he added.

Dr O'Keeffe also spoke at the 4th International Palliative Medicine Conference last weekend in Galway.

The conference heard from 40 expert speakers from Ireland, UK, New Zealand and Australia

Dr O'Keeffe discussed Advance Directives, also known as a living will.

A 'living will' is a statement about the extent of medical treatment a person desires in the future on the assumption they might not be able to make that decision at a relevant time.

He warned against people in their 20s making a living will, stating that they often under-estimate their quality of life in their 70s or 80s.

The Cuisle Beatha Conference was organised by Dr Dympna Waldron, palliative medicine consultant at GUH and clinical lecturer at NUI Galway.

She said those working in palliative medicine, which works to relieve suffering of patients in cases where there is no medical expectation of a cure, needed to integrate with other specialists.

She said palliative care staff were "ideally placed to be the 'gatekeeper'" to appropriately refer patients for interventions.

Irish Independent

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