Cognitive loss and associated functional decline can reflect many different physiological processes, some of which are progressive and neurodegenerative, others stable or even reversible. Behavior analysts, through their measurement-based practice, are uniquely positioned to detect fluctuations in proficiencies and skill levels that are potentially indicative of decline, and to implement assessment and intervention. The goals of this tutorial are twofold: (1) to provide an overview of neurocognitive disorders, such as those from Alzheimer’s, Lewy body disease, or stroke, and prominent risk factors, such as age and an already compromised nervous system due to prior traumatic brain injury, chronic disease, lifestyle factors, or particular preexisting neurodevelopmental disorders; and (2) to offer a practical step-by-step guide to ruling out reversible conditions, ascertain the appropriate level of social and physical support, and address potential behavioral and emotional changes. Video and audio examples will be provided for training purposes, to illustrate the heterogeneity of individuals’ reactions to functional decline, the difficulties of family members to follow behavioral plans or adapt to their loved one’s loss of skills or repertoires, and the need for medical care navigation. The tutorial will introduce cognitive loss and functional decline as a high-need specialty practice area, amenable to workforce development in behavior analysis.
Claudia Drossel is an assistant professor at Eastern Michigan University, a researcher and a clinical psychologist who specializes in advancing neurobehavioral health, including how to best understand and manage cognitive loss and associated behavioral changes. Claudia holds doctoral degrees from Temple University’s experimental psychology and from University of Nevada Reno’s clinical psychology programs, and she completed post-doctoral training in neuropsychology and rehabilitation psychology at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the University of Michigan. She was the associate director of the Nevada Caregiver Support Center from 2005 until 2010. In addition to journal articles, chapters, and training videos for professionals, she has co-authored a step-by-step manual that guides healthcare providers in working with people who have problems thinking, remembering, or problem-solving. Past and current projects were funded by the Michigan Health Endowment Fund and the Anna Botsford Bach Fund for Seniors.