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Community-Based Project for Early Detection of Cognitive Decline

SUNY Upstate Medical University’s Department of Geriatrics in collaboration with Syracuse University recently completed a one-year pilot project to evaluate the effectiveness of a community-based approach to screening older adults for cognitive impairment.

Through a collaboration of service providers, the pilot integrated the evidence-based and publicly available Mini-Cog™ screening tool into the regular home visits of a Neighborhood Advisor with adults aged 65+ in Syracuse neighborhoods with high concentrations of poverty and high proportions of older adults. The Mini-Cog™ is a simple, five-minute assessment validated to increase the detection of cognitive issues.

The project was led by Dr. Maria Brown, Assistant Research Professor in Falk College’s School of Social Work and Faculty Associate in Syracuse University’s Aging Studies Institute and co-directed by Dr. Sharon Brangman, Chair of SUNY Upstate’s Department of Geriatrics. Other project partners included the Onondaga County Office for Aging, Syracuse Community Connections, and the Central New York Citizens Aging Research and Action Network (CNY-CAN). The pilot was funded by the Health Foundation of Western and Central New York.

“We have been very excited about this project since the beginning as it gave us the opportunity to identify those who may have an early dementia in the community before they are in a crisis situation. Early identification of a serious memory problem will allow us to develop a care plan to help the older adult remain independent and enjoy a high quality of life for as long as possible,” says Dr. Sharon Brangman.

Early detection of AD/D often provides opportunities for earlier interventions and treatments, clinical trial participation, improved access to medical care and support services, opportunities for still-capable older adults experiencing cognitive decline to make financial, legal, and care plans consistent with their preferences, and potentially delayed need for nursing home placement.

“We are thrilled that the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York chose to fund this pilot project, which enabled us to reach older adults who might not otherwise be diagnosed or receive needed supports,” says Dr. Brown.

Dr. Brown and Dr. Brangman are currently exploring opportunities to expand the pilot to other communities and with other community-based service partners.

Syracuse University’s Aging Studies Institute is a collaborative initiative of the Maxwell School of Citizenship & Public Affairs and the David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics. Its mission is to coordinate and promote aging-related research, training, and outreach at Syracuse University

Founded in 2002, the Health Foundation of Western and Central New York has awarded more than #30 million to fund programs in 16 counties in western and central New York. The Foundation focuses on programs that improve health outcomes for two of the most vulnerable and underserved populations in these regions – older adults and children birth to age five who are impacted by poverty.