There are a number of reasons a person may be referred for a neuropsychological assessment. These include:
1. Diagnosis Many diseases and conditions affect a person's thinking skills (cognition) in different ways. A neuropsychological assessment can characterise a person's cognitive profile and use this information to discriminate between different conditions. For example, the cognitive profile of dementia is different to delirium and depression. Once the condition is accurately identified and diagnosed it can be appropriately treated. Some conditions, such as traumatic brain injury, may only affect a person's cognition, making it difficult for a neurologist or psychiatrist to recognise and diagnose the difficulties.
2. Assessment of decision making capacity Many diseases of the brain and mind can affect a person's ability to make decisions. For example, a person with severe memory problems may forget that they need various services such as home help and Royal District Nursing to help manage at home. In such cases a substitute decision maker may be appointed by VCAT to protect a person's well-being and respect their best interests. VCAT often seeks the opinion of a neuropsychologist when considering such cases.
3. Characterisation of cognition A neuropsychological assessment can identify a person's strengths and weaknesses. This pattern of cognitive function can then be used to tailor treatments and rehabilitation to suit the individuals needs. For example, a person with verbal memory problems may need written prompts and visual reminders of events to cue them and trigger their memory. In this way, rehabilitation can be tailored to utilise a person's strengths and compensate for their weaknesses.
4. Access to services Having a good understanding of a person's cognitive abilities and the diagnosis of certain conditions can allow a person to access appropriate supports services. For example. if a person has been diagnosed with an acquired brain injury by a neuropsychologist they may be eligible to receive the Disability Support Pension.
5. Monitor effects of treatment Many medical treatments such as medications and surgeries can affect a person's thinking skills. For example, some antidepressant medications can make a person forgetful and some brain surgery operations can change a person's personality. Neuropsychological assessment before and after such treatments can identify and measure these effects.
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