Published on July 06, 2017

Dementia Screening added to Essentia Health wellness visits

Essentia Health physicians and registered nurses are helping patients and their families find answers by routinely screening people age 65 and older for dementia with a short, cognitive test.

"Our goal is to identify patients who may have dementia so we can create the proper care plan for them and offer resources to them at the same time," says Director of Primary Care Dr. Joe Bianco, who leads initiatives to improve the quality and care for patients.

Dr. Bianco, working with Dr. Michael Sharland in neuropsychology, and Dr. Steve Waring, of the Essentia Institute of Rural Health (EIRH), identified a need to better diagnose dementia illnesses and to standardize the type of care and resources offered to patients.  A pilot program was held at Essentia Health-Ely and West Duluth Clinics, and led to the expansion to all Essentia Health clinics, starting this summer.

"Cognitive screenings are now standardized across our clinics by means of the annual wellness visit." Dr. Bianco adds.   "Early detection allows patients and families to make plans for the future. We can also connect them to resources in their community that can offer information, services, support, respite and day care."

Patients who don't pass take a more detailed cognitive test and undergo other examinations to ensure an accurate diagnosis. 

"We're hopeful this screening will lead to earlier detection of cognitive issues in our senior population, so we can help improve their health and ultimately the quality of life for them, and their family members."

The screening involves a five-minute cognitive test and is now part of patients' free Medicare wellness visit with a registered nurse or annual physical with a physician.  For more information, consult your local Essentia Health provider.