A memory screening is a wellness tool that helps identify whether possible changes in memory and cognition are age-related or the beginning of a more serious memory problem. It is not intended to diagnose but instead to evaluate how different areas of your brain are working, providing a baseline of brain function over time. Since some factors triggering memory loss can be reversible, it’s important to practice early detection so that symptoms may be treated.
Changes to the brain can begin 10 to 20 years before any signs and/or symptoms of dementia. Every adult over 65 should consider having a memory screening. Getting a memory screening without having any symptoms of dementia results in capturing a baseline of brain health well in advance so it’s possible to note changes over time. Many dementia experts agree that screening for cognitive impairment should actually be part of an annual physical.
Sadly, fewer than half of Medicare enrollees whose medical records show a diagnosis of some type of dementia report being told of their diagnosis by their doctor. In addition, anywhere between 40 and 60 percent of adults with probable dementia had not been given that diagnosis. The reason for this is that many doctors say they are reluctant to diagnose dementia, or lack confidence in doing so as they know there are limited treatment options and that there is no cure for dementia.
Older adults often fear memory assessments for a variety of reasons. One of the main reasons is that a discovery of a cognitive problem can lead to a need to make changes in lifestyle such as the need to stop driving if safety concerns are identified.
However, earlier detection and diagnosis of dementia make it possible for individuals and their family members to take steps to improve brain health, manage symptoms, and capture their care preferences.
Improving timely detection and diagnosis also increases the eligible pool of people able to participate in clinical research trials and can also help determine eligibility for new disease-modifying drug treatments on the near horizon, most of which will benefit individuals at the earlier stages of the disease.
I often recommend to friends, family and associates to consider getting a memory/cognitive assessment, even if they are not having any cognitive concerns. There are many reputable entities within The Villages community that provide these types of assessments free of charge including The Villages Health (352-674-1779) and Charter Research at Lake Sumter Landing (352-441-2000).
I recently encouraged a dear friend (J.C.) who does not have any cognitive issues to participate in a memory assessment. He went through the memory assessment at Charter Research at Lake Sumter Landing and sent me several comments (all of them outstanding) about his experience. A few of his comments included “The session lasted slightly over an hour. The individual testing me (Alaina) demonstrated patience and attention to detail throughout the process. Overall, the Charter Research experience was exceptional. It struck the perfect balance between being comprehensive and comfortable. I would recommend her (Alaina) and Charter Research to anyone seeking a memory/cognitive assessment.”
Everyone over 65 years of age should consider participating in a memory/cognitive assessment. Receiving a comprehensive assessment of memory capabilities establishes a reference point for current memory function that can be compared to later testing if memory problems become present.
Carol Ann Wolf, MSH-NHA-CDP is a Village of Hemingway resident. She is a retired healthcare executive who volunteers in a variety of different areas within The Villages relating to dementia.