A new tool has been developed to speed up the process of diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease, so people with the condition can get earlier access to the right support from family, carers and other professionals.
The wait for a diagnosis currently is an average of three years, and the long wait can stretch to an average of seven years if the person has young-onset dementia, such as frontotemporal dementia.
The online web application tool was developed by a collaboration of experts from 17 organisations across Australia, led by the University of Melbourne.
Clinical neuropsychologists will be able to use the Australian Dementia Network (ADNeT) Neuropsychological Norming Tool, known as ANNT, to form a diagnosis and communicate it to their clients more quickly.
Assessments by neuropsychologists are important for evaluating the early symptoms of dementia, like a decline in memory and thinking skills, and the results of these tests are compared to the results of similar people from the broader population to see whether the client is likely to have dementia.
The ANNT speeds up the diagnosis process by creating an automatic, timely, report on the results of the general population, which professionals can then use to compare to an individual’s results.
Ambassador for the University of New South Wales’ Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing, Edward Caser, said in his mother’s case a diagnosis of Alzhiemer’s disease took almost five years.
“It took three years before we were even referred to a geriatrician,” Mr Caser said.
“From that original appointment, it took another 18-24 months of various memory-related tests before she was diagnosed.”
Mr Caser said it gave him “great hope” to know that a tool has been developed to make the diagnosis process quicker, given how stressful it was for his mother.
ADNeT Memory Clinics Co-Lead, Professor Sharon Naismith from the University of Sydney, said an early and timely diagnosis of dementia is of “critical importance” to high-quality care.
“By automating the time and labour-intensive aspects of neuropsychological report development, the ANNT frees neuropsychologists to focus their highly specialised skills on areas for which they are most valuable: the formulation of a clinical diagnosis, and the development of cognitive interventions to boost access to quality post-diagnostic care,” Professor Naismith said.
The tool will also help to standardise the assessment process, which will make it easier for people with mild cognitive impairment to be assessed – before their symptoms and condition become obvious.
You can register to access the ANNT on the Australian Dementia Network website.