Hispanics and Latinos are one of the minority groups with a higher prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias in the United States. Unfortunately, these population groups are also less likely to seek healthcare assistance and often present to health care providers when problems are severe enough to impact the functional and social aspects of their lives.
As part of the work-up process, neurologists, primary care providers, and other health care providers may order a neuropsychological evaluation to provide a pattern of strengths and weaknesses in the patient’s cognitive functioning that may relate to a specific cognitive profile. Neuropsychological evaluations may also help objectively differentiate between cognitive decline due to normal aging from a more deleterious pathological process.
The assessment of Hispanics and Latinos is a highly complex task given the heterogeneity in sociodemographic characteristics that exist within these groups. One of the major barriers in assessing these minority groups includes gaps in communication between healthcare providers and patients due to the linguistic and paralinguistic differences that may exist between them. With regards to neuropsychological evaluations, diagnostic inaccuracies may occur if the patient is not assessed in their dominant language and using instruments that have been validated for their particular ethnic group or that more closely resemble the group from which the patient comes. As part of this process, clinicians also integrate relevant background and demographic characteristics into their diagnostic impressions.
Early detection of Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias may improve the patient’s quality of life and assist caregivers to navigate this process better by providing education of expected changes and ways to compensate for their loved one’s challenges. Neuropsychological evaluations may also help track the patient’s disease progression and provide recommendations that may be more useful at particular stages of the disease.
Our Hispanic and Latino communities are encouraged to talk about experiencing cognitive changes with their healthcare providers and discuss advisability for these types of evaluations. Early detection and education are key elements in caring for someone with dementia.