Background and objectives: Cognitive screening is a “first step” in detecting dementia and other neuropsychiatric syndromes and hence represents an important public health and clinical initiative. A plethora of cognitive screening instruments has been advocated in recent years, but the extent to which these instruments are used or their effectiveness is not well known. An International Psychogeriatric Association (IPA) survey was designed to determine which cognitive screening instruments were used most frequently by clinicians with special expertise in the neuropsychiatric aspects of old age and also to determine the ones considered most useful by these specialists.
Method: Under the auspices of the IPA, the survey was mailed in the fall of 2004 to all IPA members as well as members of the American and Canadian Associations of Geriatric Psychiatry. The survey inquired about demographic information, the frequency of use of cognitive screening instruments, and the value attributed to the cognitive screening instruments. Participants also had an opportunity to provide written commentary.
Results: A total of 334 completed surveys were processed. The majority of respondents were geriatric psychiatrists (58%). Of the 20 different instruments that were listed on the survey, only six were selected as “routinely” or “often used” by the survey respondents. These instruments in declining order were: (1) the Folstein Mini-mental State Examination; (2) the Clock Drawing Test; (3) Delayed Word Recall; (4) the Verbal Fluency Test; (5) Similarities; and (6) the Trail Making Test. “Effectiveness” and “ease of administration” were the test characteristics most highly predictive of frequency of use. Open-ended comments highlighted patient factors that continue to provide challenges, including ethnicity/culture, language, education/literacy, and sensory impairment. Respondents concluded that “no single test is adequate.”
Conclusions: Psychogeriatricians worldwide routinely use a relatively small number of brief cognitive screening instruments. Further evaluation is necessary as the need increases for cognitive screening guidelines that inform public health initiatives related to dementia and neuropsychiatric syndromes.