Characteristics of HD Cognitive
Disorder Cognitive disorder found in HD patients is characterized by a reduction of speed and flexibility in mental processing. Cognitive losses accumulate and people with HD develop more global impairments in the later stages of the disease. Memory, language, and conceptual ability persist, but limited output impedes our ability to assess them.
Cognitive problems in persons with HD occur early in the disease and include difficulty paying attention and trouble thinking through the steps of an activity. A person with HD can also have difficulty thinking through complex problems and finding the best solutions to the problem. They may have trouble planning and putting in order the actions that they need to do to complete a task in the most appropriate and safe manner. A person with HD may also report difficulty with “multi-tasking.”
Assisting HD Patients in Learning
To improve learning, caregivers can:
- Encourage repetitive practice of tasks n Allow ample time for the person with HD to process information
- Provide cueing such as reminding them of the next step or writing out a list of steps to be followed.
- Break down complex tasks into simpler tasks and have the person with HD attend to one task at a time.
Cognitive Issues in Late Stage HD In later stages, the cognitive problems progress to dementia. These cognitive problems can interfere with the ability to learn new motor tasks. It is unlikely that a person in late stage HD can learn to do things in a new or different way. It will also be necessary to instruct them on each individual step of the task to be performed. Remember that a person with HD needs more time to process instructions, and due to bradykinesia (slowness of movement), are slow to respond. When you give them an instruction allow extra time for them to respond.