Certain changes in our loved ones may concern us, especially when we don’t know what’s causing them. A neuropsychological assessment identifies what may be changing in the brain, the degree of change, and what steps can be taken to get needed care. Medical specialists might be recommended who may change the medications your loved one takes, or changes in daily routines for improved functioning, and adjustments in living arrangements or caregiving requirements.
A Focus on Adults, Particularly Senior Citizens
There is increased incidence of neurocognitive disorders – dementias -- associated with populations aged 50 and over. Many times, families are caught off guard and need advice and direction after a loved one has been diagnosed with a neurocognitive disorder. I’ve focused my practice on older adults because I see the greatest need in them and their families.
Early Signs that a Neuropsychological Assessment Is Appropriate
Many times, it is difficult to know if your loved one is having forgetfulness of normal aging, or if there is something more going on. Here is a partial list of behavioral changes that may be early signs of bigger issues.
Compared to the recent past, does your loved one more often:
Nobody’s perfect! I understand that. I’ve lost things and have had dents in my car.
These behavioral changes are concerning when they become more regular – they start, don’t seem to stop, and seem to keep happening. If you notice a pattern like that, a neuropsychological assessment may be appropriate.
A neuropsychological assessment takes a noninvasive look at the areas of the brain that impact our behaviors. As a result, a wide range problems can be identified.
More common issues I discover are:
All of the conditions I’m able to identify are cognitive in nature. By comparison, I’m NOT able to make medical diagnoses because I’m not a medical doctor. I can say that something I identify appears consistent with X or Y. In those cases I’ll tell you that and recommend you see an appropriate doctor for a medical diagnosis.
The most obvious person to benefit is the patient getting the neuropsychological assessment. The assessment’s goal is to identify what’s needed now to help get the care that’s needed – new doctors, change in daily habits, or a change in caregiving. Those will all benefit the patient.
The Patient’s Family
Often times I get called by a family member that’s noticing changes in a spouse’s, mom’s or dad’s behaviors. There’s confusion about what’s happening and they’re not sure what to do. They can call the primary care doctor, and that doctor should always be involved. However, most primary care doctors aren’t able to spend enough time diagnosing behaviors that are hard to explain. By comparison, a neuropsychological assessment lasts a few hours and looks at many areas of the brain that influence behavior.
One beneficiary of a neuropsychological assessment is a senior living community. If a resident’s behaviors are changing, the clinical staff and caregivers need to know why and what to do. Some communities will ask that an assessment be done for seniors who want to live in their community before moving in so they can make sure they’re able to accommodate the senior’s needs.
Another situation I see is when legal decisions need to be made. For example, many people have assigned a family member or another person to act as their power-of-attorney (POA). This arrangement gets triggered if the individual isn’t able to make decisions in their best interest. In these cases, a neuropsychological assessment can help determine if an individual is able to make those decisions.
Many insurance plans cover neuropsychological assessments. Traditional Medicare covers 80% of the cost once every 12 months. Supplemental insurance usually covers the other 20%.
If you’re not on Medicare, I work with most insurance carriers and will work with you to find a solution that works. I’ll do what I can to take away payment as a barrier to getting an assessment. (I do not get reimbursed for an HMO policy such as Humana.)
I handle the billing related to the cost of an assessment.