One of the most common complaints from people getting older is a decline in memory, concentration, and overall cognitive performance. A bit of this is normal with age, but significant changes may be a sign of serious medical issues.
The most common causes of cognitive decline are:
- Vascular problems -- if blood-flow to your brain cells is constricted, those cells aren't going to work very well
- Alzheimer's disease -- a degenerative disease associated with the spread of malformed protein tangles throughout the brain
- Depression -- psychological and social problems can often cause cognitive impairment that looks very much like an organic disease
In addition to these three, there are a variety of medical and psychological conditions that can impair cognitive performance -- and in many cases there are concrete steps you can take to improve your health and mental ability.
How dementia testing works
I'll administer a series of cognitive/neuropsychological tests designed to measure how well your mind is functioning across a variety of areas -- memory, attention, concentration, language, information processing, visual processing, pattern recognition, and abstract reasoning.
Then I'll compare your scores for each of those areas against all the others, and also against the normal range of scores achieved by other people in your age group. This will help us see whether there are any specific or general deficits in brain functioning. I'll also look into your personal history, and how well your historical level of functioning in life matches up to your test scores.
Lastly, I'll administer a test designed to measure your social and emotional functioning, to see whether there are any mental health issues (such as depression) which can account for the cognitive deficits.
When to get tested
It's better to get tested as soon as possible, for two reasons:
- Any medical or psychological problems revealed by the testing will usually be easier to address before they advance any further.
- The scores obtained on the tests you get done now can be used as a baseline measure. We can compare scores obtained in future tests to see whether your condition is improving or worsening over time.