Cognitive impairment is a difficulty in thinking, remembering, learning new things, understanding, and making decisions. Cognitive impairment ranges from mild cases, where a person may seem just forgetful, to severe cases where the person may not be able to communicate or take care of themselves.
Cognitive impairment is caused by a variety of things, such as disease or injury. Common causes include dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, traumatic brain injuries, and congenital disabilities. While people of all ages can experience cognitive impairments, older people are more often affected by the condition. Other risk factors include family history, drug and alcohol abuse, physical inactivity, and conditions such as diabetes.
Exposure to hazardous chemicals such as pesticides can cause cognitive impairments, even decades after the original exposure. Certain professions are linked to higher rates of cognitive impairments. These include agricultural workers, emergency workers, and veterans of foreign wars.
Diagnosing Cognitive Impairment
Diagnosis of cognitive impairment includes both determining that there is an issue with cognitive function and finding the possible cause. Although a diagnosis can be made without knowing what is causing the impairment, successful treatment depends on knowing why the person is experiencing cognitive decline.
A doctor will take the individual and family medical history, including work history and possible exposure to hazardous chemicals. It is helpful if a friend or family member can confirm that the person has had a decline in mental functioning.
Diagnostic testing may include:
- Neurological exams to test reflexes, coordination, and balance
- Neuropsychological testing to see how well the person performs on tests of mental functioning compared to others in their age group
- Bloodwork to look for vitamin deficiencies, uncontrolled diabetes, and thyroid functioning
- Brain imaging tests such as MRIs and CT scans to look for physical signs of stroke, changes in brain size and structure, and for signs of diseases such as MS and Parkinson’s disease
Screening for mental illnesses such as depression and bipolar disorder are often included in diagnostic measures. If suspected, the doctor may also look for signs of sleep apnea or other sleep disorders. If a person has had repeated exposures to toxic chemicals, tests for heavy metals may be necessary.
Treating Cognitive Impairment
Before treating cognitive impairments, it is important to determine what is the cause. Causes such as thyroid functioning or sleep disorders may respond well to treatment. If the impairment is caused by medications, stopping the medication may cause an improvement in symptoms. Vitamin deficiencies can be treated by supplements. If the cause is a mental illness such as depression, treating the condition with a combination of medication and talk therapy can help with the impairment. Diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s may not respond as readily to treatment measures. For these disorders, supportive measures may be necessary.
In all cases, treatments that are started at the early signs of cognitive impairments are most successful. Keeping physically fit, mentally engaged, and managing chronic illness can help to slow symptoms or prevent the development of the condition. People who are active in their community and have the support of family and friends have better success at managing the symptoms and slower progression of the condition. Learning new skills, such as card games or exercise such as tai chi, can keep the brain active and elastic.
Lifestyle changes such as following a routine, using reminders such as lists and medication alarms, and simplifying the home set up to easily find things can help a person stay as independent as possible. People with severe cognitive impairments may need help performing daily tasks. They may not be able to live by themselves and may need live-in caretakers or to move to an assisted living facility.
Evaluating Claims for Long-Term Disability Due to Cognitive Impairment
Individuals suffering from serious cognitive impairments may find themselves unable to maintain employment. Such impairments could qualify them for Long Term Disability (LTD) benefits, subject to the insurance company’s review and approval based on the stipulations of the specific plan.
Understanding the Criteria for Disability
The majority of LTD plans define “disability” as a medical condition preventing an individual from fulfilling their job responsibilities for the first two years under the policy. After this initial period, the individual must be incapable of performing work duties across nearly all occupations. The specifics may vary, so understanding how your plan defines “disability” is essential.
Documentation Needed from You and Healthcare Providers
Insurance providers will need comprehensive medical records regarding your cognitive impairment from all of your treating physicians. This includes clinic notes, diagnostic exams, and lab results. The documentation must include evidence of your diagnosis, continuous symptoms, and their impact on your ability to work.
Legal Assistance for Your Long Term Disability Claim
Going up against an insurance company can be an overwhelming endeavor, but you don’t have to do it alone. A skilled disability lawyer can steer you through the appeal process and maximize your chances of obtaining the benefits you’re entitled to.
If your initial claim was rejected, all is not lost; experienced legal teams like those at Ortiz Law Firm are proficient in navigating appeals and potential legal action. We work on a contingency basis, so we are only compensated when you win your case. This allows you to focus on your health while we handle your case.
Ortiz Law Firm boasts a track record of effectively representing disability cases nationwide. For a free case evaluation with a long term disability attorney disability attorney, feel free to reach out to us at (888) 321-8131.