Douglas Ladika and Samuel Gurevitz, assistant professors in Butler’s Physician Assistant (PA) program, co-authored 1 of the 10 most viewed articles appearing in the online journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants between January and May 2011.

Published in March, the article reviewed common causes of reversible dementia, a deterioration of cognitive function that, Ladika said, is often “tragically and erroneously ascribed to age alone.”

In their article, Ladika and Gurevitz cited research from 2003 indicating that 9 percent of dementias appear to be potentially reversible. Typical causes of these conditions can include depression, thyroid disorders, tumors, even medications commonly prescribed for older patients.

“With life expectancy improving and the size of the population older than 65 years increasing, dementia will be a growing public health problem in the United States,” the article stated.

Although the subject of reversible dementias is not new to healthcare providers, Ladika said, often, “it is overlooked, much to the detriment of seniors. Every older patient experiencing cognitive decline deserves an intense evaluation for reversible causes of cognitive impairment and therapeutic intervention if indicated.

“Dr. Guervitz and I feel so passionately about this topic; we both have a place in our hearts for the geriatric population,” he said. “They deserve to age gracefully and with dignity, if possible.

“Ageism” — attitudes that attribute patients’ mental decline solely to their age — “can rob the elderly of both,” he said.

“It is important for physician assistants, pharmacists and other health care professional to be advocates for the older patient,” Gurevitz said. He has incorporated the topic of reversible dementias and other geriatric conditions into pharmacology courses for first-year PA students, second-year courses on therapeutics and a geriatric elective course for pharmacy students.

Ladika covers reversible dementias in a “History and Physical” PA course, during a geriatric module in spring semester. “It is important for these future health care professionals to embrace the paradigm of vigilant advocacy for the geriatric patient, to be contributors to the momentum toward function and dignity in this population,” he said.

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