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Screening for Cognitive Impairment and Dementia in the Elderly

  • Christopher J.S. Patterson (a1) and David A. Gass (a2)



To review the evidence available to support or refute the recommendation to screen for cognitive impairment (cognitive deficits which do not affect daily function) and dementia in primary care.

Data Sources:

Medline search using terms listed at the end of this article; consultation with experts in the field; review of other published recommendations.

Study Selection:

There were no articles which described a randomized controlled trial of screening versus no screening. Studies were therefore chosen which aided in the definition; natural history; interventions and outcomes including possible negative effects.

Data Synthesis:

No systematic synthesis was performed. Background papers were circulated to a panel of experts prior to the Canadian Consensus Conference on Dementia and conclusions endorsed by consensus.


1. There is insufficient evidence to recommend for or against screening for cognitive impairment or dementia. (C); 2. Memory complaints should be evaluated and the individual followed to assess progression. (B); 3. When caregivers or informants describe cognitive decline in an individual, these observations should be taken very seriously; cognitive assessment and careful follow-up are indicated. (A) (See Appendix).

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