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How to screen for early memory loss

Written By northidahodpc

How to screen for early memory loss

November 1, 2011

I frequently get asked by a concerned family member whether their loved one may be developing early Alzheimers.  They have noticed some forgetfulness, and they want to know if there is a test to rule this out.

Cognitive dysfunction is the medical term describing a decreased ability to think and reason, of which Alzheimers Disease is the most common cause.  However, there are many other types of dementia, most of which can only be determined by physician interview, examination, labwork and imaging studies such as an MRI.  With that said, family members and/or friends can start the evaluation process if there is a concern of memory loss with two simple screening tests:

1)Verbal fluency test.  Ask the person to name as many different animals as possible in 1 minute.  A normal score for a person with 8 or more years of education is 15 or more, with a concern for dementia in a score less than 15.
2)Mini-Cognitive Assessment Instrument.  Ask the person to repeat and remember 3 unrelated objects, then ask him to draw the face of a clock with the time of 10 minutes past 11, then repeat the 3 objects.  The test is scored 0-5, with 0-2 highly suggestive of dementia.  Each correctly remembered object is scored as 1 point each, and the correctly drawn clock is scored as 2 points.  See this test at http://www.aafp.org/afp/2009/0315/p497.

Taken separately or together, these simple tests are quite accurate in screening for dementia.  If positive, the family member or friend should be further evaluated by a health care professional…Richard R. Samuel, MD     Family Practice and Urgent Care

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