A Primer on Memory Screenings

It can be difficult to determine whether a loved one’s forgetfulness is a common result of aging or whether they’re dealing with an underlying problem like dementia.

“When family members start to notice slips in their loved one’s memory, a common place to start is with a memory screening,” says Allison Yancey, Executive Director of Residences at Wellpoint. “This evaluation could offer insight into what your loved one is experiencing and be a gateway into the conversation about Memory Care at a senior living community.”

Keep reading to learn more about memory screenings, who might need one, and why they’re important.

What Is a Memory Screening?

A memory screening is a simple and safe first step toward finding out if a person has a memory problem. This evaluative tool is used to test memory and other thinking skills and is sometimes referred to as a “healthy brain checkup.”

Memory screenings:

  • Consist of a series of questions and tasks designed to test language, memory and other intellectual capabilities
  • Occur in a private setting – often a doctor’s office, nursing home, or a hospital
  • Take about an hour to complete
  • Are not a diagnostic tool or a replacement for medical treatment

The specialist who administers the screening will provide you with a confidential explanation of the results when you’re finished. They may recommend that you seek further care from a qualified healthcare professional or point you toward a relevant clinical trial.

Who Should Be Screened?

There are several reasons why someone might participate in a memory screening. Perhaps the most common is that the individual or someone around them – like a doctor or a family member – has concerns about their declining cognitive abilities. It’s also appropriate for people who are worried about the possibility of Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia.

Here are some helpful questions to go through with your loved one to determine whether they would benefit from a screening:

  • Have you become more forgetful?
  • Is it challenging for you to perform familiar tasks?
  • Are you having trouble concentrating?
  • Are you misplacing or losing items?
  • Do you struggle to recall words or names during a conversation?
  • Have you ever forgotten where you are or where you’re headed?
  • Have loved ones told you that you’re repeating yourself?
  • Have you gotten lost when driving or walking in a familiar place?
  • Have your loved ones commented on any changes in your mood, behavior or personality?

If your loved one answers “yes” to any of these questions, it’s an appropriate time to have a memory screening.

Why Is a Memory Screening Important?

Early diagnosis of dementia is important. The sooner memory impairment and its pathology has been determined, the sooner treatment can begin. Early detection also gives a patient a chance to educate themselves about their diagnosis in the initial stages of their condition. Then they can seek proper guidance and make prompt decisions about their senior care.

An early screening also gives a patient the chance to gather baseline data to compare to future screening data, which can help them measure ongoing cognitive decline.

There’s no single test that can determine whether a patient has dementia. If your loved one’s screening has abnormal results, their provider will likely order a diagnostic imaging of the brain and a blood test for more information about their condition.

Where Can I Get a Memory Screening?

Memory screenings are administered by many different specialists, including neurologists, social workers, physician assistants, psychologists, pharmacists, and physicians.

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America endorses National Screening Sites where you can go to have a memory screening by a qualified healthcare professional.

Memory Care Where Seniors Flourish 

Residences at Wellpoint is a senior living community in Huntsville, AL, that provides a safe, structured environment for adults experiencing memory loss. Our community offers individualized treatment through our FlourishSM Memory Care program that empowers seniors to live purposefully, independently, and happily.