The prevalence of cognitive impairment increases as we age. In fact, mild cognitive impairment affects eight percent of people aged 65 to 69. But, it affects 37 percent of people aged 85 and older.
If you’re taking care of aging parents, you should be able to identify signs of declining cognitive health. Early detection is the key to getting the right cognitive health solutions.
To learn how to test mental ability by performing a cognitive assessment, keep reading.
When Should You Perform a Cognitive Assessment for Your Aging Parents?
Your cognitive health assessment of your aging parents is going to happen over time. You should make notes of changes over time rather than performing an in-depth exam all at once.
There don’t have to be any existing problems for you to start performing regular cognitive assessments. You should be checking for cognitive impairment even if your elderly parents have no past medical history.
As you care for your aging parents every day, you may make notes of changes that you see in their personality. As you talk to them and walk with them, you’ll be able to test motor skills and mental ability.
The key to assessing cognitive health is to pay attention. It’s likely that changes in your parents’ mental abilities will change slowly over time.
If you’d like, you may keep a journal to detail their usual routines and behaviors. Once you notice a difference, you should make note of it.
The Physician’s Cognitive Assessment
Every time that your parent sees their physician, you should bring up anything that you’ve noticed. Although, you may choose to do this in private before the physician’s assessment.
After your parents have their regular visits, the physician may ask you to look for specific signs and symptoms. Be sure to make note of these and other suggestions that they have.
It’s important to note that a physician cannot see everything. They don’t interact with your parents every single day.
Only you’re the one who can make the determination about whether something is ‘normal’ for your parent or not. You’re the one who sees how they act and what they do on a daily basis.
When in doubt, let the physician know about the behaviors you’re seeing.
What to Look for When Evaluating Cognitive Health in Elderly Patients?
Cognitive decline is a gradual issue. Therefore, you have to determine when the decline starts. If you’re consistently assessing your parents’ mental ability, you’ll be more likely to detect changes.
As you’re performing your cognitive health assessment, you should look out for four main symptoms:
- Frequent repetition
- Avoiding normal routines
- Delay in action
- Signs of depression
Each one of these can be a sign of something greater going on. If you notice any of these symptoms, you should make a note of what’s going on and when it started. Then, you should let a physician know as soon as possible so that they can observe the patient over time.
1. Frequent Repetition
Some repeated stories or phrases are normal. However, consistent repetition is a sign of cognitive decline.
While you’re keeping an eye on your parents’ cognitive health, you should make note of how often they’re repeating themselves.
If they ask the same question multiple times or repeat the same statements, they may be experiencing cognitive problems that warrant medical attention.
Repeating themselves once or twice isn’t a cause for concern. But, a continuous pattern of repetition is worth a trip to the doctor’s office.
2. Avoiding Normal Routines
If your loved one’s routines start to change, they may be experiencing cognitive impairment. It could be that they don’t remember their routines or have a different memory.
Small changes here and there may be a preference. But, large shifts in daily routines can be a red flag for something more serious.
The loss of normal routines may also become obvious when it comes to chores and responsibilities. You may notice dishes piling up or unopened mail accumulating.
These are signs that elderly patients may not be remembering to complete these tasks or don’t realize that it’s their job at all.
3. Delay in Action
One of the most common delays comes as a speech delay. Many elderly patients with cognitive impairments take a few seconds or even minutes to respond to questions.
If you find that your aging parent is taking longer than normal, it could be a sign that they need access to cognitive health solutions. Without preventative care, cognitive health continues to decline.
Slight changes in mental ability are normal with aging. But, you should note any drastic day-to-day changes. Short-term (acute) changes may mean that there’s a physical problem with your parent’s brain.
4. Signs of Depression
Depression in elderly patients is common. In fact, the prevalence of depression in elderly individuals is as much as 13%.
Contrary to popular belief, depression is not a normal part of aging. And, you should take any signs of depression seriously.
With all of the emotional and physical changes of aging, it’s common for patients to become overwhelmed. That’s why should be looking for signs of depression during your regular cognitive assessment.
Here are some common signs of depression in elderly individuals:
- Persistent sad mood
- Feelings of hopelessness or guilt
- Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
- Decreased energy
- Moving or talking more slowly
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Difficulty sleeping
- Eating more or less than normal
- Suicidal thoughts
Depression can be scary. But, it’s important to get any affected patients to a health care provider as soon as possible.
Cognitive Health Solutions
Assessing for and treating cognitive health issues is imperative for elderly patients. These changes don’t have to be a part of their legacy.
If you find that your aging parents are struggling with cognitive impairment, you should consider Alternative. Our team provides a variety of home-based services for elderly patients with different levels of mental ability.
We can help you care for your aging parents. And, our health care professionals can help you perform regular cognitive assessments.
If you have any questions, let us know by contacting us online.