Medicare annual wellness exam now includes cognitive memory test

Caregiver, patient expert

Early detection of Alzheimer's is important, yet according to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA), general practitioners currently miss about 50 percent of dementia cases. Now, the annual free Medicare wellness exam will include cognitive memory tests to help increase the rate of early diagnosis of dementia.

According to the AFA, the upholding of the health care Affordable Care Act (ACA) by the Supreme Court is the reason for the inclusion of these tests which the AFA says will help address memory concerns, dementia and Alzheimer's. The organization says that the tests should help reverse current under-diagnosis and misdiagnosis of these diseases.  If you have a loved one on Medicare and you have reason to believe there may be cognitive issues developing, the first step may be the free wellness exam.

The AFA says that  ""memory screenings  make sense for anyone concerned about memory loss or experiencing warning signs of dementia; whose family and friends have noticed changes in them; or who believe they are at risk due to a family history of Alzheimer's disease or a related illness."

Here are some symptoms that the AFA suggests people look for in order to decide if they or their loved one is in need of memory testing.

  • Am I becoming more forgetful?
  • Do I have trouble concentrating?
  • Do I have difficulty performing familiar tasks?
  • Do I have trouble recalling words or names in conversation
  • Do I sometimes forget where I am or where I am going?
  • Have family members or friends told me that I am repeating questions or saying the same thing over and over again?
  • Am I misplacing things more often?
  • Have I become lost when walking or driving?
  • Have my family or friends noticed changes in my mood, behavior, personality, or desire to do things?

Sometimes, adult children can convince an elder who is reluctant to go to a doctor to get this checkup because it's free with no co-pay. If you think your elder needs the memory exam, then you can contact the physician ahead of time about your concerns. It's not as thorough as a complete yearly physical, but once your loved one is in the clinic you can subtly suggest other tests if the doctor thinks they would be helpful. Give the Medicare free checkup a try for a stubborn elder. "Free" just may work.

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