If you are suspicious that a loved one is showing signs of dementia, including confusion or forgetting how to do familiar tasks, get them in for a dementia screening test, now a standard part of Medicare wellness exams provided by the Prowers Medical Center Clinic. As part of the screening test, they will be asked to draw a clock with a set time. Surprisingly, this simple task tells providers a lot about whether or not the person is showing early signs of dementia, and is recommended by the Alzheimer’s Association and other experts. The test has proven to be effective at determining decreased executive functioning, even when memory disturbances are not yet obvious.
Follow up Care for Identified Memory Loss
“When someone fails the clock screening test, they are sent to me. My job is to explore why someone is having signs and symptoms of dementia, and create a treatment plan,” said Jessica Hall, MS, CCC-SLP, a speech and language specialist with Prowers Medical Center.
Hall describes dementia as a big umbrella with different types of cognitive impairment falling under it, including many causes besides Alzheimer’s Disease. She names Lou Gehrig’s, Parkinson’s, vascular dementia caused by stroke, stress, infections, medication side effects, and vision and hearing loss as other reasons for memory loss.
“A leading cause of the onset of signs and symptoms are people not wearing their hearing aids. Another is stress, especially for senior citizens who have just gone through a change in life like retiring or losing a spouse or loved one, because increases of the stress hormone, cortisol, can cause brain impairments,” she said.
In a good share of these cases, memory loss is reversible. Hall trains family members to help carry out brain exercises at home, and refers to a neurologist or another specialist as needed.
“If you or your loved one are diabetic, you should watch for cognitive changes. Blood sugar levels can affect the brain. When you add in stress and increased cortisol, the chance of impairment increases because cortisol and insulin have a symbiotic relationship,” Hall explained.
Hall typically sees patients once or twice a week, and treatment lasts 4 to 12 weeks, depending on how severe the cognitive impairments are. Medicare covers her services with a diagnosis from a physician.
Alzheimer’s Support Group at Prowers Medical Center
Prowers Medical Center is pleased to host the Alzheimer’s Support Group, once a month. The support group is for caregivers, not for those diagnosed with the disease, offering much needed support and camaraderie.
“It provides a place for caregivers to talk freely about challenges, share ideas and vent difficult emotions. It’s completely confidential and of course there’s no charge,” says Ann Carter, Regional Director of the Colorado Alzheimer’s Association’s Southern Colorado chapter.
The Alzheimer’s Caregiver Support Group meets on the third Thursday of every month at Prowers Medical Center, 401 Kendall Drive, Lamar. The group runs from 11:00 am to Noon in the Education Room. For more information, call Ann Carter at 719-544-5720.
The Alzheimer’s Association provides support, free counseling, information, resources, educational classes, community presentations, and assistance. For more information, contact the Southern Colorado office at 719-544-5720, or call the 24-hour help line at 1-800-272-3900. For more, visit www.alz.org/co.
Early warning signs of Alzheimer’s Disease include forgetting important dates, asking for information again and again, having difficulty managing money and schedules, forgetting rules of familiar games, experiencing trouble driving to familiar places, having difficulty telling time or reading, calling objects by the wrong word, misplacing items, losing interest in social activities, and exhibiting personality changes.