Dementia is a syndrome in which there is a deterioration in memory, thinking, behavior and the ability to perform everyday activities (World Health Organization, 2020). Dementia can cause an array of different symptoms for each person. Even in 2021, there is still a shortage of professionals that are available and more important that are qualified to administer different Dementia Testing. Most Primary Care Physicians, are not trained to diagnose, manage or treat dementia but, it's the Primary Care Physician's responsibility to refer you to a neuropsychologist or a geriatric specialist who can help assess, test and explain a possible diagnosis of dementia. Although, a Primary Care Physician can perform a basic and brief cognitive test to get a baseline of the individuals cognitive functioning.
Testing can be conducted at a local memory center, alzheimer's center or a neurologist office that specializes in cognitive impairments such as dementia, MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairments). Your primary care physician should be able to refer you to a few different recommended providers.
Examples of different testing could include:
Cognitive Testing i.e., clock tests, time and change; Boston Naming Test
Example of Clock Tests: Ask patient to draw a clock, to put the numbers on
the clock and then to point the hands on the clock to a certain time.
Example of The Boston Naming Test (BNT), introduced in 1983 is a widely used
neuropsychological assessment tool to measure confrontational word retrieval
in individuals with aphasia or other language disturbance caused by stroke,
Alzheimer's disease, or other dementing.
Brain scans, CT or MRI's (different brain scans can detect different history of the brain) i.e., show evidence of strokes, brain atrophy, changes to the blood, hydrocephalus and subdural hematoma.
Medical history questions
Family history question
FULL assessment of cognitive and functional abilities
According to a recent research study, there is an underuse of these diagnostic assessment tools and a lack of attention to the issues faced by the family caregivers. Also, it's been found that the primary care physicians do not have the time or the specialization to diagnose and manage dementia patients, and therefore more and more people are not being accurately treated. According to Lorentz, Scanlan, Boron (2002), Brief Screening Tests for Dementia, their objective of screening tests was to compare brief dementia screenings for professional use; these authors found it could be highly beneficial for doctors to routinely screen for dementia and catch the diagnosis earlier.
A trained Geriatric Professional needs to be the one who completes a thorough and complete assessment of your loved one. I am in the process of developing cognitive, functional, environmental and pain assessments to administer to my clients to help provide a better care plan for the individual needing help. Please reach out if you have any concerns.
Laura Cassell, CDP, M.S. Applied Aging Sciences
Gerontologist & Dementia Practitioner
Serving the Florida Panhandle (Pensacola-Tallahassee, FL)