The Role of Neurocognitive Assessment in Geropsychology

by Dr. Etre

As the population of geriatric patients in America steadily increases, it is more important than ever for healthcare providers to become knowledgeable and efficient in the management of dementia and memory care.  Dementia is not a “one size fits all” condition.  Both the type and the stage of dementia will influence the interplay of the cognitive, psychological, and behavioral factors that patients experience.  A comprehensive understanding of an individual’s cognitive capabilities is a crucial starting point when treating patients with dementia.  Neurocognitive assessment provides this crucial information.

Psychologists who perform neurocognitive assessments are specially trained to evaluate a range of cognitive domains including memory, judgment, reasoning, language, attention, and visuospatial abilities.  This objective data helps to identify specific dementia types and stages, ultimately informing treatment and discharge planning.  As non-pharmacological and individualized strategies are increasingly sought after for managing dementia-related behaviors, neurocognitive assessments allow the treatment team to develop behavioral interventions that draw on the resident’s specific needs, based on their cognitive presentation.

Whether in long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities, or outpatient community settings, healthcare providers treating older adults encounter questions such as: Does this person have dementia, or a mild cognitive impairment?  Is this person safe to live alone at home?  Can this person make his or her own health care decisions? Having the results of a comprehensive neurocognitive assessment is prudent in answering these kinds of questions.