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New Test can Help Uncover Early Signs of Alzheimer's

One in eight senior Americans has Alzheimer’s disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, and the disease ranks as the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. For many Americans, it can be difficult trying to determine the difference between when a loved one is showing the early signs of Alzheimer’s or just having a forgetful moment typical of aging. Now a new test may give family and caregivers the tool they need to determine they cognitive health of a loved one.

A report published earlier this year in the journal BMC Geriatrics outlines an Alzheimer’s Questionnaire that includes 21 yes or no questions designed to determine whether an individual has started showing signs of the disease.

Composed of five categories that include orientation, memory, functionality, language, and visuospatial ability, the test weights questions depending on how indicative an answer is of an early sign of Alzheimer’s. These signs can include difficulty with time and date, sense of direction, and managing money. A score of 15 points of higher on the questionnaire indicates the potential of Alzheimer’s, while scores between five and 14 can indicate only mild cognitive impairment. Any score under five indicates a perfectly functioning memory.

Researchers from the Banner Sun Health Research Institute designed the questionnaire to help determine if a person is exhibiting the classic symptoms of Alzheimer’s, such as memory loss, confusion, and mood changes. Sample questions in the questionnaire included:

  • Does the individual frequently repeat, statements, stories, or questions throughout the day?
  • Does the individual blame or suspect others of hiding, moving, or stealing items when they cannot find the item?
  • Does the individual have difficulties using common household appliances?
  • Does the individual become lost, confused, or disorientated when in an unfamiliar place?
  • Does the individual have trouble recognizing family, friends, and others close to them?

To test the effectiveness of the questionnaire, researchers administered it to 47 individuals who were being treated by a neurologist for mild cognitive impairment, and to 51 participants who possessed no known memory problems. Individuals with cognitive impairment possessed a greater tendency to repeat questions and statements, demonstrate difficulties with determining the date and time, have trouble managing money, and show a decreased sense of direction when compared to study participants without memory problems.

While researchers admit that more study needs to be done on the effectiveness of the questionnaire, it does provide doctors with another tool to help catch Alzheimer’s at an early stage when treatment can help to slow down the disease’s progression. Researchers also point out one of the questionnaire’s biggest benefits is that it can be administered by anyone, and even taken by someone concerned about their mental acuity. 

A freelance blogger, Timothy Lemke writes about health for Dr. Sara Barber, adentist in Vancouver WA