That nagging question in the back of your mind never feels good… “Am I forgetting more things than I should be?” Or perhaps, “Did my spouse just absent-mindedly forget that appointment, or is something going on with their memory?” It’s tough to ask the hard questions, but sometimes we just want an ANSWER! This is where cognitive assessments come in – and that cognitive diagnostic process is something that we can help demystify! Read on to learn more!
In today’s hustle and bustle, it’s easy for something to slip your mind. Meant to start the dishwasher before you went to bed? Can’t quite remember where you left your phone? The important question to ask is, when is this just a symptom of living a full life, versus when is this a symptom of a more serious cognitive problem? As various pharmaceutical interventions gain traction in the media, and we continue the search for a cure for cognitive disorders like Mild Cognitive Impairment or the more serious Alzheimer’s Disease, the topic of how to diagnose a disorder like this has come front and center. In this article, we’ll explain the diagnostic process and the role that cognitive tests play.
Are you having issues with memory, attention, language, organization, or planning? First and foremost, take a deep breath! You have done the hardest thing already – admitting to yourself that you’re concerned. Now let’s talk about concrete things you can do to take action. Start with your primary care provider (PCP). They get this question all the time and will have actionable recommendations for your next steps, customized to you or your loved one’s needs. Your PCP may also refer you to a neurologist or neuropsychologist next.
A neurologist is a medical doctor who completed specialized training in how the brain and nervous system work. At your appointment, they will ask you questions, do some short assessments, and depending on your history and presentation, might send you for an imaging study like an MRI. Don’t worry, an MRI won’t hurt! You’ll lay still in a tube that will make some banging noises while it creates an incredibly detailed image of your brain! It’s actually pretty cool that we can do this! Your neurologist will take a look, probably along with radiologists (MDs who can read MRIs), to see whether there is anything of concern that might explain your thinking challenges.
Your neurologist might also recommend you see a neuropsychologist. A neuropsychologist is a psychologist who has specialized training in cognitive assessments (sometimes also called cognitive evaluations or cognitive tests) and understanding brain-behavior relationships. They will give you a set of paper-and-pencil tests that help to understand the various aspects of your memory, attention, language, organization, planning, and daily life skills that help to set a baseline of where you are right now. These cognitive assessments may be tricky, but they’re intended to be! The tricky nature of these tests is helpful in teasing out exactly where your needs lie, and the neuropsychologist will make recommendations to help you maintain your cognitive abilities for as long as possible. These tests will help flesh out exactly where your strengths and weaknesses lie.
If there is an issue at play, your neuropsychologist, in collaboration with your neurologist, will set up a plan for you to keep track of how your memory and other cognitive abilities are changing over time. This will help you to know when you or your loved one might need more help, and what type of help is needed.
The exciting news in the field of cognitive disorders is that programs like Constant Therapy are gathering more and more evidence that they can be effective in slowing the progression of diseases like Alzheimer’s and other related disorders. They may have the potential to help someone keep their thinking abilities intact for longer than they might have otherwise. We are excited to support the ongoing research in this field, and look forward to continuing to find new ways to help people with memory, attention, planning, organization, and other cognitive challenges!
“It’s important to keep the brain active later in life, especially if you are starting to notice changes in your or a loved one’s memory abilities,” says Dr. John Bernstein, Ph.D., a clinical neuropsychologist in private practice. “Research suggests that individuals who regularly engage in cognitively challenging activities tend to preserve their thinking abilities for longer than those who don’t.”
Give it a try today! We offer a 2 week trial to make sure that the app is the right fit for you, and our Customer Support team can help you get set up! Take a look at our memory and other cognitive exercises and see if any of these might be a good challenge for you or your loved one. However things evolve for you, know that we’ve got your back in this emotionally-fraught experience, and are cheering you on!