When is Neuropsychological Testing Recommended?

Referrals to a neuropsychologist are made when there is some suspicion of cognitive decline, either by the older person’s caregivers, their family, or the individuals themselves. Some concerns include observations that a person’s memory or problem solving has deteriorated.  Language may deteriorate as well as social skills.  It may also be that there is a noticeable difference in the individual being able to take care of themselves independently e.g., difficulties with self-care, managing finances and medication, problems with driving. 

 

It is highly recommended that the referral for testing is made after a physician has ruled out any medical issues which could be causing a decline in the person’s abilities, such as medication withdrawal, severe pain, or infections.  A referral to a neuropsychologist is not made when somebody is actively using drugs or alcohol, or immediately after an injury, stroke or surgery (except for a screening test).

It is important to have specific questions that need to be answered as part of the evaluation. A key issue when making a referral to a neuropsychological service is to have a clear and specific question to be addressed by the assessment (Table 1).

 

It is also important to include sufficient information about a patient in the referral for the neuropsychologist to initiate the assessment (Table 2).

 

Tables and Reference:  Robert Frerichs, PhD, CPsych  The Canadian Alzheimer Disease Review • April 2004