There are a number of cognitive screening assessments that are used to assist in diagnosing early Dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, etc. These are quick screens and consist of tasks such as listing objects, recalling items that were provided at the beginning of the assessment, naming the current President, etc.
Although there are inconsistencies in outcomes with these types of assessments as some forgetfulness is a natural part of aging and can be overlooked or trigger further testing and/or medications, these tools are great baseline determinants. A screening assessment can assist with the tracking and trending of changes over time and may lead to further testing to confirm a diagnosis.
In working with the geriatric population, it is important that physicians and other providers make careful observations of their residents, making notes on their appearance, mannerisms, if they came alone or with family members, if they are able to communicate clearly, etc. If the physician has completed an annual screening, it can be used to compare with current results and assist in developing a plan of care.
Screening tools are designed to be an aid in determining a care path for the resident and are not necessarily an end-all diagnosis. It is important to remember to observe them walking, at rest, ask them questions, see if they can carry on a meaningful conversation, and communicate your findings with your team. Remember, if you don’t know the resident, it can be very easy to miss the subtle signs of change in condition so consider having staff who are familiar with the resident perform the screenings!
Stay well and continue to keep your residents engaged!