Information can also be gleaned from the patient’s behavior on arrival in the doctor’s office and interactions with staff.
Positive screening results warrant further evaluation. A combination of cognitive testing and information from a person who has frequent contact with the patient, such as a spouse or other care provider, is the best way to more fully assess cognitive impairment.(14)
A primary care provider may conduct an evaluation or refer to a specialist such as a geriatrician, neurologist, geriatric psychiatrist, or neuropsychologist. If available, a local memory disorders clinic or Alzheimer’s Disease Center may also accept referrals.
Interviews to assess memory, behavior, mood, and functional status (especially complex actions such as driving and managing money(16) are best conducted with the patient alone, so that family members or companions cannot prompt the patient. Information can also be gleaned from the patient’s behavior on arrival in the doctor’s office and interactions with staff.
Note that patients who are only mildly impaired may be adept at covering up their cognitive deficits and reluctant to address the problem.
Family members or close companions can also be good sources of information. Inviting them to speak privately may allow for a more candid discussion. Per HIPAA regulations, the patient should give permission in advance. An alternative would be to invite the family member or close companion to be in the examining room during the patient’s interview and contribute additional information after the patient has spoken.