What's it like: To get a memory screening

Everyone forgets things. Most people at one time in their lives have forgotten their keys or that they're out of milk. But there are some problems with memory function that might prompt the need for a medical evaluation.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: January 20, 2013

Why get a memory screening?

Everyone forgets things. Most people at one time in their lives have forgotten their keys or that they're out of milk. But there are some problems with memory function that might prompt the need for a medical evaluation.

Oftentimes, people get memory screenings after either they or their family members think they might be suffering from memory problems. Sometimes a person's primary care physician might suggest a memory screening, or memory test.

It can be difficult for family members or friends to suggest a memory screening, because it's often a touchy subject. No one wants to be told they might be suffering from memory loss. The Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation has information for caregivers on approaching the subject.

There are multiple reasons why a person might suffer from dementia. Some patients are suffering from dementia because of medications they're taking. For example, prescription narcotics can cause short-term memory problems.

The word “dementia” makes most people think of Alzheimer's, but there are several types of dementia. Vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia and Lewy Body dementia are examples of other types of dementia.

Additionally, minor head trauma, depression, tumors, hypothyroidism, alcoholism and a vitamin B-12 deficiency are all things that can cause dementia.

What happens during a memory screening?

There is no specific set of questions that doctors have for a memory screening. Oftentimes, it's simply a conversation between you and your doctor or neurologist. It's generally not done in a formal hospital setting but rather one-on-one in a doctor's office. It's important to note that there is no test that can tell you whether you have Alzheimer's.

During your screening, your doctor will ask you questions about yourself and your medical history. Also, your doctor or neurologist will likely want to know what medications you're taking and what medications you've taken in the last six months to a year.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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