Populations throughout the world are both increasing and aging. The rapid growth in the number of older people has resulted in not only an increased requirement for services, but also the possibility of an increased prevalence of disorders such as dementia.
The ability to distinguish between older people with cognitive impairment and those who age in a healthy manner is crucial. Cognitive impairment may be a precursor to full-blown dementia. Therefore, an early diagnosis of cognitive impairment is important. However, patients are often admitted to a hospital only when they already have a serious cognitive impairment. Consequently, cooperative studies between clinics and community-based organizations can contribute to the early diagnosis of dementia.
A recent article in Health & Social Work discusses a hospital-community services cooperation model that has been implemented in Mersin, Turkey. The model is designed to screen for early indications of cognitive impairment in older adults. The authors write:
We propose that community-based services that involve community health workers who have been trained to detect early cognitive impairment may assist clinicians in diagnosing dementia-related disorders. Moreover, the development of networks between hospitals and community services may result in the detection of dementia disorders at earlier stages of the disease.
A cooperation model between the Neurology Department of Mersin University Hospital (Mersin, Turkey) and the Mersin branch of the Alzheimer’s Association was developed. Trained professionals used a battery of neurological tests to evaluate 50 individuals at the Mersin branch of the Alzheimer’s Association in Turkey. Individuals whose performance fell below the average were subsequently referred to the hospital. On the basis of the neurological and neuropsychological assessments, 11 participants were placed in the mild cognitive impairment group and 39 were deemed healthy. Their studies further suggested which evaluative assessments work best in these cooperation models.
Community health workers may be key to the successful collaboration between hospitals and community-based services. Programs that offer training in the administration of cognitive screening tools can improve the ability of health workers to recognize early dementia. The authors hope this study will lead to further developments in the implementation of cooperation models throughout the world.