Q: How can a neuropsychological evaluation help me?
A: Many people are referred by their doctor for a neuropsychological evaluation because there is concern that there is a problem or changes in thinking, such a forgetfulness or inability to concentrate. Sometimes problems with thinking abilities can interfere with someone's performance at work or in school or with their ability to complete everyday tasks such as paying their bills. This evaluation can help you understand if there is a problem with thinking abilities, personality, and mood. The results may help guide your doctor’s treatment and recommendations of a diagnosis. Some people participate in this evaluation to understand their strengths and weaknesses so that they can improve on areas of functioning.
Q: What can I expect during my testing?
A: A typical evaluation can last from a half-day to a full day. The neuropsychologist will spend time talking to you to understand your concerns. This may also involve an interview with a friend or family member who knows you well. After the interview, the testing can take from 2 to 6 hours, depending on the questions that need to be answered. While it seems like a scary or daunting process, the clinician will provide a comfortable and compassionate setting and you are given the chance to take a break when needed. At the end of the evaluation you may be given preliminary feedback. The neuropsychologist will provide you or the doctor that referred you with a written report explaining the results of the testing. You will also be given the opportunity for a feedback session where you can talk to the neuropsychologist about your test results. The report, and your conversation with the neuropsychologist, will provide you with information about your thinking abilities, recommendations, and helpful suggestions.
Q: What should I bring to my assessment appointment?
• A referral from your doctor and relevant medical records including brain MRI or CT reports if you have them
• Your insurance card
• A list of current medications and supplements
• Reading glasses and hearing aids if needed
• In some cases a family member or someone who knows you well should come for the interview portion of your evaluation.
Q: What should I do to prepare for a neuropsychological evaluation?
A: There is no need to prepare for the evaluation. Be sure to get a good night of sleep the night before your appointment and take all of your medications as usual. Eat a good breakfast that morning and you may bring snacks if you’d like.
Q: What happens when the evaluation is over?
A: At CCCW we remain supportive to you, your family, and your doctors. You will receive a copy of your report and will be given the opportunity to schedule a feedback session with the neuropsychologist to review the test results and ask questions. We may offer recommendations and suggestions for programs, therapy, and rehabilitation that can be helpful to you. Some of these services we offer at CCCW and others we will recommend in your local community. Our goal is to help you understand and thrive as your best self in all areas and we will do our best to assist you!
Q: What is Brain Fitness, Cognitive Wellness and Healthy Brain Aging?
A: Our brains, like our bodies, perform better when they are kept in shape. All Brain Fitness helps people learn and implement ways to keep their brains healthy to promote peak performance now and reduce the risk of dementia later.
If you have a family history of dementia such as Alzheimer's disease, you are not doomed to the same fate. Genes only account for about 30% of the risk for Alzheimer's disease. That leaves a considerable amount of risk up to our environments, and brain science is teaching us that there are many things we can do to lower our risk.
There is no cure for dementia, and most treatments available now and in the pipeline for the future face a significant obstacle, which is that much of the damage that causes dementia starts many decades before the symptoms appear. Many doctors now believe that the best defense against dementia is a good offense. Implementing certain life-style changes early in life may be the best thing you can do to prevent the development of dementia later in life.
If you are already an older adult, there are still many things you can do to reduce your risk of dementia or delay its onset. Every year that dementia is delayed translates into considerable financial savings and independence. People who delay the onset of dementia often experience fewer years of having to live with disability, meaning more years of functional independence and better quality of life.
CCCW provides individual and group-based coaching and support for people interested in improving their brain function, developing habits to slow, prevent or delay cognitive decline and reducing their risk of dementia.
Q: Alzheimer's disease is genetic, so since my grandmother had Alzheimer's that means I'm going to get it, right?
A: Genes do play a role in Alzheimer's disease (AD), but for late-onset AD (diagnosis after age 65 - the most common type and likely what your grandmother had) genes do not work in the fatalistic way that we assume when we hear that something is "genetic." In fact it is inaccurate to say that common AD is "genetic." It is more accurate to say that there is a "genetic component" to the disease, meaning that there are some genes (APOE4 is the most widely studied) that increase a person's risk, but genes only account for about 30% of the risk. The rest (about 70% - or the majority of the risk) comes from the environment, and in this case that translates to lifestyle. You don't have the same exact brain that your grandmother had, and there are things you can do to protect your brain from AD.
Q: Will joining a group or getting a brain fitness coach guarantee that I will not develop Alzheimer's disease?
A: Sorry there are no guarantees. It would be good for business if there were. However, we do know that there are certain lifestyle patterns that lower the risk of dementia and promote better vitality now and as we age. All Brain Fitness can help you develop those lifestyle patterns.
Q: There are so many books and internet resources that tell us what we need to do to keep our brains healthy and prevent dementia. Why would I need a brain fitness coach or therapist?
A: Often knowing what we need to do for better health does not automatically lead to behavior change. This has been seen countless times in the areas of weight loss, physical fitness, and health care compliance. Many of us create roadblocks that keep us from doing what we need to do for better health. It could be a lack of motivation, not having access to the right resources or information, or not having the right support. In the areas of weight loss and physical fitness, discussion and support groups (such as Weight Watchers) have been shown to increase success. A brain fitness coach or therapist will provide you with exercises that are tailor fit to your individual cognitive needs and personal goals. Your therapist will also provide you with support and help you explore the things that are limiting your optimal brain performance and keeping you from implementing healthy brain behaviors.
Q: I already play online brain games or do sudoku puzzles. Isn't this enough?
A: Brain games are a great way to stimulate the brain and to keep it it sharp, and for you that may be all you need. But brain fitness is more than just mental stimulation. There are many factors that affect how our brains perform and how they age. Some people already have all of the mental stimulation that they need and the thing that they need to keep their brain healthy is more relaxation or stress reduction. Another person may need to eat a healthier diet. This is why individualized coaching can help more than just getting a subscription to an online brain training program. I provide each of my clients with an individual assessment of their brain health strengths and weaknesses and help them build a program specifically tailored to improving their brain health needs.
Also, it is important to remember that doing one or two brain activities over and over not improve the brain after a certain point. Novelty in brain training is key! Therefore, if you are already good at doing crossword or sudoku puzzles, you will benefit more from trying something new than by doing your 10,001st puzzle.