Memory screening can help with early diagnosis of dementia
Early detection of Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias can lead to appropriate interventions, such as medical treatments, social services, and advanced care planning. The key to an early diagnosis is the use of memory screening.
“Memory screening is about the storage and retrieval of information,” explains Jacqui Robinson, Occupational Therapist, GAIN (Geriatric Assessment and Intervention Network) Clinic at The Scarborough Hospital. “We start with three or five words, and ask the patient to remember those words while doing other tasks. As an OT, I cannot diagnose dementia, but I can probe to determine specific memory problems. Once I have identified thinking changes, I collaborate with the rest of the team so that we can provide diagnoses and recommendations.
“We also look for patients who are repeating the same story or question over and over again, which can be a sign of dementia.”
June 14 is National Memory Screening Day, and the interprofessional team of healthcare providers at TSH’s GAIN Clinic offer the following early signs of changes in thinking:
- Changes in memory – forgetting how to do something you’ve done all of your life, like following a recipe or a simple repair job around the house.
- Changes in language – increasing word-finding problems or difficulty reading the newspaper or books.
- Changes in judgement, such as wearing clothing that’s not appropriate for the weather (i.e., going out in a snow storm with only a sweater).
- Misplacing things in strange places (car keys in the fridge, for example).
- Changes in personality, such as acting out of character, withdrawing from people or social situations.
- Changes in driving proficiency – increases in “close calls” and/or fender benders, stopping at a green light, etc.