Diagnosing Dementia: Why a Senior Can’t Afford to Miss a Memory Assessment

As we grow older, our mental capacities often begin to experience a shift. We may have trouble recalling certain things, engaging in problem-solving, or retaining new information. There are many ways to keep the brain healthy as we age, but even doing all these things may not be able to stave off the changes forever. And when a senior begins having cognitive impairment, close family members and friends are often some of the first to notice.
What do you do if you observe these changes in your loved one, but aren’t sure what they mean? Or if your loved one is in denial about them, refusing to see the potential challenges that may come about? That’s when a memory assessment can be a useful tool in diagnosing dementia, providing clarification, and prompting a plan of action.

What is a memory assessment?

A memory assessment is a tool that evaluates the level of memory impairment a person has (if any). It can also sometimes measure their decision-making capacity (for both medical and financial matters), or determine if they possess the needed skills to live safely and independently in their own homes. If not, it may be time to explore what level of care is recommended to help them function.

How do I get a memory assessment for my loved one?

Many reputable home care agencies can make referrals for memory assessments. First, a dedicated client service specialist gathers the preliminary information. Next, it is usually passed onto a neuropsychologist. The neuropsychologist then follows up with the patient or family to set up a convenient appointment time. Concerns regarding payment for the assessment may be directed to Medicare, although many home care agencies also accept private pay.

What happens during a memory assessment?

A memory assessment is nothing to be apprehensive about – either for you or your loved one. The neuropsychologist who is assigned to a senior will typically meet them in their home or wherever they are most comfortable. They will talk to your loved one about their educational and professional background, as well as administer an in-depth written test.

How long until the results are in?

It’s possible to have your loved one’s memory assessment completed in less than a month, depending upon when you call to schedule it. Upon completion, the neuropsychologist provides a written report of the results, as well as recommendations for further care. If needed, a legal “Capacity Declaration” may also be supplied, but check with your home care agency to see if they offer this type of document.

When should I get a memory assessment for my loved one?

As we mentioned above, if you see what you think is a significant decline in your loved one’s functioning, a memory assessment may be in order. This is especially true if there are documented cases of Alzheimer’s disease in your family, and you are concerned that your loved one is exhibiting the symptoms. It’s also a good idea to have periodic assessments to see how their condition is progressing, or as often as recommended by their physician.

The importance of memory assessments in diagnosing dementia

Although you do everything you can to keep your loved one’s cognition in good shape, you may not be able to fight the overwhelming factors of genes and illness. Memory assessments are crucial because they allow patients and family members to pinpoint problems – and possibly prevent or delay them. For instance, while there are no known cures for Alzheimer’s at this time, there are medications and techniques that can slow the disease’s progression. If a memory assessment shows symptoms of the condition, you’ll want to take proactive steps as soon as possible.
Memory assessments are nothing to fear, though many seniors and their families are apprehensive about the changes they may bring. However, armed with newfound knowledge, you and your loved one can begin to face the future together.
If you are unsure of how to best help an aging loved one, the trained and compassionate staff at the Institute on Aging is here to help you make that decision and gain the best in at-home senior care. Contact us to find out more.

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