Wheel of Cognitive Function

It can be so difficult to tell the difference between normal “senior moments” and the signals of cognitive decline. There can be several reasons for this. Off the top of my head…

  1. Changes caused by cognitive impairment usually happen so gradually that they are imperceptible from day to day. In the case of a loved one we see every day, we are unconsciously adjusting to that person’s “new normal” all the time, blurring the line between normal and not normal.
  2. For those who are aware of their own cognitive decline, many will find ways to cover or compensate in a way to disguise these changes from a loved one. In some instances, the compensation happens involuntarily, as a healthier part of the brain takes over for a weaker one.
  3. Denial is a defense mechanism that sees no distinction between normal and problematic aging in the brain.
  4. Lack of knowledge about normal cognitive function and the symptoms of decline can cause people to miss the signals that impairment may be present and progressing.

As part of my “virtual book tour” for The Dementia Field Guide, I was recently featured in a podcast interview with Lori La Bey of Alzheimer’s Speaks. Lori was praising the structure of the book throughout the interview and one of the examples she used to illustrate her thinking was the inclusion of the Field Assignments in every chapter. In this excerpt we explore that topic as we discuss the handy fold-out diagram – the Wheel of Cognitive Function detailed in Chapter Two – and the associated Signals of Cognitive Decline Assessment in Appendix B. Below the media clip, I’ll talk about these two tools some more.

Excerpt: Alzheimer’s Speaks podcast, 1-12-21. Topic: Field Assignments in “The Dementia Field Guide”, specifically the Wheel of Cognitive Function and the Signals of Cognitive Decline Assessment.

About “The Wheel”

The “Wheel” – as I call it affectionately – charts 30 different signals of cognitive decline and the proper function these signals are delineated from. The three tiers (overall function, responsibilities, and symptoms of decline) are organized concentrically so that the information covered is comprehensive, yet fits on one page. The eight overall functions are shown below. (The associated numbers refer to the order in which I cover them in Chapter Two of The Dementia Field Guide.)


About the Assessment

The Signals of Cognitive Decline Assessment probes the possibility of impairment using thirty questions that correspond to the thirty signals organized around these eight cognitive functions. Users can self-score the results (assessing a loved one or themselves) and receive a recommendation based on their score. In The Dementia Field Guide, this assessment is in bound in as an appendix.

If you would like a copy of The Dementia Field Guide, complete with dementia caregiver tools, assessments, field assignments, planning templates, and 250 pages packed with information and answers, click below.