Over the course of our lifetime, we access our healthcare system many times. We go for a variety of tests, preventative services, and of course annual check-ups where they always check and track our vital signs. At a recent visit, I was pondering this, the word and concept of vital, thinking, “Isn’t cognition the essence of who we are? Is it not vital? Shouldn’t this be talked about, assessed routinely, tracked, and examined over time and across the continuum of care?”
Cognition is vital and routine assessment and tracking should be a standard of care!
We all know that dementia is a worldwide epidemic. However, I still find with many of my clients that no one is routinely checking and tracking their cognition until a serious issue or incident occurs. I am often consulted by families for individuals in the hospital or in a rehab facility after a fall or injury. Of course, everyone including me is focusing on physical strength, balance, and mobility, but most times they are not adequately addressing or attempting to rehabilitate what is the core problem — their cognition. This continually causes me frustration and forces me think about how many people are discharged from the hospital or rehab without a care manager or advocate and this dysfunctional cycle then repeats itself again and again because no one has simply addressed the main issue, what truly began this cycle. How many people are in skilled nursing or worse due to injuries that can be prevented with proper management? How many people are in a home setting without proper cognitive stimulation resulting in premature cognitive changes? So much can be prevented and better managing if cognition is being assessed, documented and tracked over time!
During the course of my practice, I see a lot of things that can be prevented and feel that a significant among of negative outcomes, mismanagement, misdiagnosis, and hardship can be reduced if we are simply more proactive about talking about mental health, and evaluating and tracking cognition.
Mental health should be a part of all preventative check-ups. This topic should not be taboo! No one should ever be hesitant or scared to discuss these areas with their healthcare providers. Stress and anxiety are increasing in our populations, due to the nature of our world, which is leading to many health care issues. Clinicians need to take advantage of opportunities to help others to manage their stress and mental health challenges. It is normal to have some challenges and cognitive changes as we grow older; however, if abnormal changes occur and are quickly recognized, early interventions can be put in place to maximize functioning and plan properly for disease management if present. Proper guidance and exercises can often improve cognition and, in some cases, protect against some memory loss caused by cognitive disorders. In addition, being upfront about cognitive changes that are normal can put an individuals mind at ease and help them to be more open in asking for guidance and help if needed!
If we are not assessing we are missing out on opportunities!
There is clear evidence that frequent participation in cognitively stimulating activities is directly associated with a decreased rate of cognitive decline and one’s risk for developing dementia. So be proactive, upfront, and involved, as it could make a positive impact on quality of life and outcomes!
Take the first step by joining our Cognition Across the Continuum Campaign by following these steps:
1. At your next check up or routine appointment talk to your health care team about your mental health and cognition! If you are a health care provider make this a standard part of your practice!
2. Make this something essential that you commit to doing at every visit as brain health is vital!
3. Encourage others to do the same and explain to them why this is important for their overall health and well being!
Let's break through the barriers together and force positive change, as when we express our feelings, emotions, and are upfront about our mental health good things can happen!
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