Decline in thinking ability occurs (along with graying hair and loss of physical agility!) as part of the normal aging process. We, as Clinical Neuropsychologists, are acutely aware of this and know precisely which aspects of our thinking do and don’t decline with age, as well as how much change in thinking ability we would expect to see as an individual ages.
Unfortunately, not all changes in memory and thinking ability are attributable to a normal aging process. In a majority of cases, individuals or their loved ones, become aware of and concerned about loss of memory ability long before their symptoms are apparent to the non-specialist.
Neuropsychological assessments are among the most sensitive means of differentiating between memory loss that is attributable to normal aging and memory loss representing the early stages of dementia. Brief cognitive screening tests, comprising questions about the date, current prime minister and the recall of objects, are known to be insensitive to very early stage dementia, particularly (although by no means only) in cases where thinking difficulties do not relate to memory. If you remain concerned about changes in your thinking ability after visiting your GP and undergoing basic cognitive screening, you can request that a referral be made to a Clinical Neuropsychologist for fuller evaluation of your thinking abilities.
There are many advantages of evaluating memory and thinking concerns at any early stage. In some cases, treatments are available to slow down the progression of thinking difficulties. In most cases, patients and their families benefit greatly from having a clear understanding of what is causing the change in memory, what can be done about it and how best to manage such changes. Early evaluation also allows time for patients and their families to address relevant legal matters such as granting power of attorney or the writing of a will, prior to the point at which testamentary capacity might be called into question.
There are a range of local services available to individuals suffering with memory difficulties and dementia. Early evaluation and diagnosis of memory change allows the patient to exercise individual choice/preference in relation to their ongoing management and care needs.
If you have concerns about your own memory abilities of the abilities of a loved one, phone to arrange an initial consultation or neuropsychological evaluation.