UF researchers: rural residents less apt to seek Alzheimer's care from family doctors

GAINESVILLE, Fla. --- People who live in rural areas rely on their family doctors for everything from delivering babies to dealing with heart trouble and fixing broken bones. But when faced with the kind of memory difficulties associated with Alzheimer's disease, just a third of older rural residents with problems ask their primary-care health provider for help, compared with half of their urban counterparts, according to a University of Florida researcher.

In a new study evaluating patterns of health-care use in six Southeastern states, scientists also found that more than 40 percent of people -- urban and rural -- whose forgetfulness and difficulties with ordinary daily tasks could be signs of Alzheimer's were not receiving care for such problems.

The study results, published in the current edition of the Journal of Behavioral Health Services and Research, underscore the need for better screening of symptoms, which in turn could lead to improved quality of life for the many currently going without treatment.

"The big take-home message of this is that rural people are less likely to use a primary-care physician for memory-related problems although those doctors are going to increasingly be seeing these patients because of the reorganization of health care and managed care," said Neale Chumbler a faculty member in UF's Institute on Aging who is the lead author of the journal article.

"It concerns me that primary-care doctors may not be screening in the community or picking up on the early signs or markers of older adults who have memory-related impairments. The fact that 41 percent of those with memory impairments did not seek services is particularly alarming and suggests that a significant proportion of people have unmet needs in terms of detection, diagnosis and management of Alzheimer's disease and related dementias," said Chumbler, an associate professor in the UF College of Medicine's department of health policy and epidemiology, and a res

Contact: Paula Rausch
University of Florida

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