Senior living facilities care for high-density populations of aging individuals, with many residents having highly complex comorbidities. The combination of drastic lifestyle changes, such as the change of environment, isolation from family, challenges with mental health, and lack of intellectual stimulation, can lead to accelerated and increased rates of dementia in senior care facilities.
Understanding how the brains of seniors are aging and changing while living in such facilities is critical to determining their care and ensuring they have access to the resources and support systems they need to live healthy and happy lifestyles. However, many residents of senior care facilities are not being regularly tested and monitored for changes in cognition.
Below, we detail the need for comprehensive brain testing for dementia as well as criteria for monitoring and diagnostic tools for senior care facilities.
Determining which residents need to move to memory care units from normal senior living environments is challenging. While family members or loved ones sometimes step in to make these decisions, this isn’t always the case. Many senior care facilities must rely on their caregiving staff to identify neurocognitive issues within residents, as they are not being regularly assessed and monitored for dementia quantitatively.
There is a strong need for senior care facilities to incorporate regular neurocognitive testing of residents to truly understand their mental, physical, and emotional needs. Beyond that, regular assessments of brain health can aid in identifying neurological diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, in residents in the early, more treatable stages of such diseases. Robust, longitudinal brain health tracking enables proactive versus reactive care for patients and thus, better health outcomes.
There is a question of feasibility for realistically incorporating regular neurocognitive testing in senior care facilities. To properly understand changes in brain health, a longitudinal analysis must be performed, meaning regular and frequent testing of neurocognitive and functional aspects of brain health.
Some facilities utilize traditional pencil and paper neurocognitive assessments such as The Mini-Mental State Exam, the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, and the MiniCog. However, these assessments often require a healthcare professional to administer and thus require significant time due to office waiting times, administration, and the analysis of analog measurements. Such tools for monitoring brain health lack the infrastructure to feasibly perform longitudinal analysis. The narrow nature and lack of ecological validity of these assessments also pose the issue of whether or not they measure an individual’s cognitive and functional abilities necessary to complete activities of daily living, such as dressing, bathing, and grooming.
When considering implementing brain testing for dementia, there are several characteristics to be on the lookout for. The following are key attributes to consider when looking for the right testing option for senior care facilities:
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