When to consider cognitive testing in seniors

When to Consider Cognitive Testing in Seniors

Are you concerned about a loved one’s memory beginning to slip? The onset of Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia can be a scary and emotionally painful point in a person’s life and the lives of his or her friends and family. Catching the early signs of cognitive decline can help your loved one start treatment when it’s most effective.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, you should take your friend or family member to a doctor for cognitive testing if you notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  1. Memory loss. Forgetting recently learned information such as important dates or events and repeatedly asking others for the same information is a common sign of dementia. You may also notice your loved one is using reminder aids, such as posting notes on the bathroom mirror or checking his or her calendar, more often.
  2. Difficulty following plans or instructions. Problems with creating or adhering to a plan or working with numbers is another sign of cognitive decline. For example, keeping track of paying bills or following a recipe may become more challenging.
  3. Trouble completing everyday tasks. Your friend or family member may have trouble with routine activities, such as driving to the grocery store or operating a computer at work.
  4. Loss of ability to track time and location. Losing track of the day, week, month or year and an inability to discern when time has passed is another symptom of dementia. People may become confused about where they are and how they got there.
  5. Trouble with visual-spatial skills. Some people with cognitive decline also have vision problems, causing difficulty reading, determining distance and seeing color and contrast. A decline in visual-spatial skills — the ability to tell where objects are in relation to yourself — can make driving especially dangerous.
  6. Problems having a conversation. People with early dementia may find themselves struggling to find the right words when talking to others. They may repeat themselves and be unable to complete a conversation.
  7. Losing track of items. You may notice your loved one misplaces items and is unable to find them by retracing his or her steps.
  8. Poor judgment or decision making. People may start making poor decisions — for example, being reckless with their finances. They may stop taking good care of themselves and skip grooming or bathing.
  9. Social withdrawal. Losing interest in hobbies and social and work activities is another sign of dementia. People may not remember how to pursue a hobby or may want to retreat from others because of the symptoms they’re experiencing.
  10. Mood and personality changes. You may observe changes in your loved one’s mood and personality. He or she may seem more depressed or fearful than usual. Confusion and anxiety can also become more common.

If you’re concerned about a loved one’s cognitive decline, make an appointment at the UCLA Health Memory Evaluation Program.

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