Driving Regularly Can Ward Off DementiaDementia refers to decline in memory or other thinking skills due to normal aging. Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common type of dementia. An estimated 5.3 million Americans of all ages were diagnosed with AD in 2015 and almost two-thirds of Americans affected by the condition are women.

There is no single or simple test to diagnose AD. However, research has shown that the risks of developing dementia can be reduced or delayed through a combination of healthy habits such as eating right, exercising, moderate levels of alcohol use, staying mentally and socially active, and keeping stress in check.

Now a new study recommends one more strategy that can help older people stay alert and lower their risks of cognitive decline – driving. The researchers from Columbia University suggest that driving a car regularly can ward off dementia in healthy older people. They point out that for older motorists, driving is an integral part of their daily life and comes with many benefits:

  • helps older people stay alert
  • gives them a feeling of self-confidence, personal freedom and independence
  • plays an important role in preventing decline in mental and physical health, which can lead to further health problems and depression

The guidelines of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) recommend that patients with mild dementia should strongly consider stopping driving. The Columbia University team recommends that when the time comes for cessation of driving by older adults, physicians should consider the adverse impact that this decision can have on health and well-being. Clinicians should develop personalized plans that incorporate social and other activities that can help maintain mobility and cognitive functions in these patients.

The last decade has seen much research on early detection of dementia, which researchers believe is the key to preventing, slowing and stopping Alzheimer’s disease. Neurologists and other physicians who treat dementia can ensure better data for research with proper medical coding and documentation practices.

In ICD-10 coding, G codes are used for Diseases of the Nervous System. ICD-10 G 30 is the non-specific code for Alzheimer’s disease. The diagnosis is described in greater detail with the following codes:

  • G30.0 Alzheimer’s disease with early onset
  • G30.1 Alzheimer’s disease with late onset
  • G30.8 Other Alzheimer’s disease
  • G30.9 Alzheimer’s disease, unspecified

Documentation to support early versus late onset is required to code the Alzheimer’s to its highest level of specificity.

For reimbursement purposes, additional codes are needed to indicate diagnoses of Mental, Behavioral and Neurodevelopmental disorders. So you have:

  • F05 Delirium, if applicable
  • F02.80 Dementia without behavioral disturbance
  • F02.81 Dementia with behavioral disturbance

Vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies, and mixed dementia are other types of dementia.

Category F02 is described as “dementia in other diseases classified elsewhere,” which means that it is a secondary diagnosis, and use of this code category requires documentation to support the primary diagnosis. Dementia codes from category F02 and F05 should never be used as the primary diagnosis.

Proper documentation of the type of Alzheimer’s and dementia and any related behavioral disturbances is crucial in order to code to the highest level of specificities. With the complexities involved, the best option for physicians is to rely on professional medical coding services. With accurate coding, reliable medical coding companies can ensure better data for research and also help practitioners submit error-free claims to maximize reimbursement.