Getting the most out of a Cognitive Assessment
Lately, there has been in increase in cognitive assessments that can be administered by anyone (including your 16 year old granddaughter). This may be helpful for a baseline, but that 16 year-old daughter is not going to understand the results or the value of the score. This is where it is important to have an expert interpret the results. There is value in having someone who has formal dementia education (ie: a gerontologist, a behavioral health specialist, a nurse, a neurologist, psychiatrist, or neuropsychologist, for example).
What we’re assessing
Most cognitive assessments measure a few areas such as: orientation, verbal recall, visual recognition, visual recall, attention, abstraction, language, executive functions, and visuo-spatial processing. When interpreting the results, an expert is able to provide analyses of what occurred during the assessment and how this is predictive of one’s everyday life and challenges.
What makes someone an expert?
Honestly, there is not just one thing that makes someone an expert but it is a combination of education and experience.
Our education has allowed us to:
· Build a network of other professionals
· Conduct advanced research analyses
· Study the latest best practices
· Build a foundation upon which our expertise is built
Our experience allows us to:
· Build on our education
· Implement the practices we have learned about
· Apply the latest research
· Encourage additional research
How can an expert help?
Often times, when I conduct these assessments, I also notice other changes. Whether it is in the environment around us. For example: is the person dressed appropriately? Is there environment cluttered with bills piling up? Are they making eye contact? Are they making jokes or excuses for their challenges? This information is important, even if someone scores “ok” on the assessment. It can indicate medical concerns that when treated, could reverse cognitive decline (Dementia is not reversible).
Identifying an expert.
With the increase in diagnoses of dementia and the increase of the population of older adults, there are more people trying to capitalize on this industry. There are many certifications one can get but the industry’s standards for these certifications are not heavily regulated. Many of the certifications, while a great start, require very basic trainings that are not nearly as thorough as advanced education.
Look for someone with education in: Gerontology, Psychiatry, Psychology, or Neurology as well as experience with older adults and those with dementia.
Cognitive assessments are a great tool! But remember scores can be misleading so always follow-up with your doctor to rule out medical causes and be prepared to take another cognitive assessment in 3-6 months.