Struggling to make Indian Curry…. Early indication of dementia?

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The September International Psychogeriatrics Article of the Month is entitled “Discriminative power of the advanced activities of daily living (a-ADL) tool in the diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment in an older population” by P. De Vriendt, T. Mets, M. Petrovic and E. Gorus.

 

This blog post was written for us by one of the paper’s authors, Prof. Dr. Patricia De Vriendt

Struggling to make Indian Curry…. Early indication of dementia?

With a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s dementia (AD) comes an understanding that the affected individual will suffer an inevitable and progressive decline in their functional abilities. In order to identify and treat dementia as early as possible the concept of Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) was established. MCI is seen as the intermediate stage between normal aging and AD and is characterized by subjective and objective memory impairments in the absence of functional decline [the loss of ability to perform everyday tasks without assistance]. However, this criterion is controversial since our previous studies and also many other studies showed that mild changes in Activities of Daily Living (ADL) can be present and probably predict conversion to dementia.

The overall issue was whether an evaluation of ADL might underpin the diagnosis of MCI in a valid and reliable way, with an accuracy comparable with cognitive assessment.

For this reason, we hypothesized that an evaluation of ADL should be done on the level of “the advanced (a)-ADL”, encompassing all the most complex activities one can perform, such as using (household) technology, preparing complex dishes, driving, going on holidays, doing sports, practice hobbies, or arts, etc. The a-ADL are considered as the most difficult activities, requiring high level cognitive organization, and accordingly are most vulnerable to early cognitive decline.

We set out to study this issue by developing and validating a new advanced (a)-ADL tool, based on the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health framework (ICF), evaluating high-level activities. Taking each participant as their own reference, we calculated a global Disability Index (a-ADL-DI), a Cognitive Disability Index (a-ADL-CDI), and a Physical Disability Index (a-ADL-PDI), based on the number of activities performed and the severity and causes of the functional problem.

The study published as ‘paper of the month’ evaluated the discriminative power of the a-ADL tool in order to establish diagnostic accuracy.

Based upon clinical evaluation and a set of global, cognitive, mood, and functional assessments, 150 community-dwelling participants (average age 80.3 years) were included and diagnosed as (1) cognitively healthy participants (n = 50); (2) patients with a-MCI (n = 48), or (3) mild to moderate AD (n = 52). The a-ADL tool was not a part of the clinical evaluation.

The a-ADL tool was able to detect the diagnostic distinction between cognitively healthy older persons, patients with a-MCI, and patients with AD. Both the a-ADL-DI and the a-ADL-CDI – of interest in this population – showed promising results and differed significantly between the groups; in contrast, the a-ADL-PDI did not.

What is the take home message of this research?

The a-ADL tool showed a good ability to distinguish normal and pathological cognitive aging. Its discriminative power for underlying causes of limitations is an advantage. Concluding, the evaluation of a-ADL, when administered in a systematic and scientific way, enables the diagnosis of MCI and – moreover – is experienced as less invasive by the patients. In the same time, this evaluation offers directions for clinical treatment, rehabilitation, advice and coaching.

 

The full paper “Discriminative power of the advanced activities of daily living (a-ADL) tool in the diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment in an older population” is available free of charge for a limited time here.

The commentary paper “A useful development in measuring activities of daily living” by David Ames is also available free of charge here.

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