Dementia Screening an Aging Population

Dementia: Screening an Aging Population

According to findings from the Pew Research Center, the number of Americans reaching retirement age will continue to rise dramatically over the next 13 years. As the Baby Boomer generation ages, it is estimated that 10,000 Americans will turn 65 each day!

The surge in America’s elderly population has obvious implications for society as a whole. It is of special interest, however, to members of the health care community, as the later years of an individual’s life bring a unique set of physiological and psychological diagnoses, such as dementia. It is critical in the coming years that health care providers are well-versed in the most useful screening tools for dementia.

The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Other less common but equally difficult variations are vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy Bodies and dementia associated with Parkinson’s disease. While each has a slightly different pattern, they all cause patients to lose memories and other cognitive skills.

Likely the simplest tool used to screen for dementia is the Montreal Cognitive assessment (MoCA). This assessment can easily be completed in a health care office in less than 15 minutes. It tests memory, executive functioning, expressive and receptive language, attention and concentration among other cognitive skills. The tests are not copyrighted and can be found online for easy use. If the patient shows deficits on the MoCA, they can then be referred for additional neuropsychological testing. A perfect score on the MoCA test is 30; cognitive decline is indicated if the patient scores 24 or lower.

The MoCA test is a valuable tool and an excellent predictor of the need for further testing; however, providers should note that depression, delirium or other physical illnesses may affect how someone scores. For this reason, it is important to consider other causes of possible cognitive dysfunction. In many cases, alternative reasons for a failed MoCA test may be discovered during neuropsychological testing.

While there are few medications to slow the progress of dementia, the most valuable treatment intervention is early detection. There is no cure, but recognizing the warning signs can allow people time to make arrangements for future care and allow family members to become educated about resources and services available to them.

Psychological Testing at Pine Rest

Pine Rest offers a variety of services for individuals of all ages, organizations and professionals seeking psychological and neuropsychological assessment, evaluations and recommendations at our Psychological Consultation Center (PCC), Pella Clinic and Traverse City Clinic. Our staff use their extensive experience and expertise as well as the most current and proven resources to tailor assessments to each individual’s particular need.

Psychological & neuropsychological testing services

This article was reviewed and approved by Valerie Mathis-Allen, MD, Psychiatrist and Hospital Based Services Interim Medical Director, Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services.