The brain is the only vital organ not routinely assessed in regular medical exams. But a healthy brain is key to emotional and physical well-being, sustaining relationships and living a fulfilling life. Early identification of brain health issues such as dementia can help patients and families adapt to changing needs.
Mini-Cog© takes only 3 minutes in an annual wellness exam, a routine medical visit, a pre-operative appointment, a senior center program or a health fair session. Just 3 minutes can improve early detection of problems with memory and thinking that need more attention.
Why Early Detection Matters
Surveys show that people want to know how serious memory and brain function problems might be so that they can:
- Have time to learn
- Plan for the future
- Prevent avoidable crisis
People living with dementia may be unaware of their cognitive deficits. Or they could be embarrassed and not want anyone to know. Their problems may not be obvious during routine doctors’ visits, especially when interactions are brief and infrequent.
While dementia is most often caused by Alzheimer’s disease, many other conditions can affect memory and thinking. Serious health problems of any kind can make a difference in how the brain functions.
Depression, medication side effects, metabolic or nutrition problems, and substance abuse can all play a role. Many brain disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease, can eventually lead to dementia.
Risks of Undiagnosed Dementia
Common problems when dementia goes undetected include:
- Neglect of basic grooming, nutrition, medication and other self-care
- Confusion and getting lost
- Forgetfulness and failure to recognize hazards
- Vulnerability to scams and fraud
- Poor health outcomes
Many people realize that dementia can lead to short-term injury and personal harm. They don’t understand that dementia can also affect long-term physical health and well-being in other ways.
People with dementia experience more unplanned hospitalizations and emergency department visits than other older adults. Some of these could be avoided with proactive care.
For example, awareness of new health problems, like infections, may be delayed. This means people with dementia can become seriously ill before a problem is identified. And the management of many chronic medical disorders, including diabetes, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart disease, can be neglected.