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Do Memory Screenings Help Identify Alzheimer's Disease?

Forgetfulness and confusion are not always signs of cognitive decline. They can also be side effects of an active retirement lifestyle. In the hustle and bustle of a busy life, we can all forget things. But when these behaviors persist, they can be early warning signs of Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia. There are also health conditions that can cause these symptoms. A vitamin B deficiency, an undiagnosed infection, or an adverse reaction to medication can all cause health issues that mimic the signs of Alzheimer’s.

If you’ve started to notice some changes in a senior loved one, you may be worried that something is wrong. Is it a normal part of the aging process or is something else going on? The truth is, even the most experienced physicians can struggle to tell the difference.

For adults who are concerned about an aging parent’s health, the best thing to do is schedule an appointment with their primary care physician. The doctor will conduct a complete physical exam, along with a memory screening test to determine if further testing is necessary.

Screening Tests for Alzheimer’s or Other Dementias

How will a physician screen a senior for a memory-related health condition? People are often surprised to learn that no single test will definitively diagnosis Alzheimer’s disease. Instead, diagnosing Alzheimer’s is a process of eliminating other potential reasons a senior is experiencing symptoms.

There are several screenings that can help health care professionals detect the signs of cognitive decline. Here are two of the most widely used:

  • Alzheimer’s Clock Test: Many doctors find this screening test simplest to use during an early assessment of a patient. The evaluating physician will ask the senior to draw a clock on a piece of paper and include the numbers. The patient is then asked to draw the hands that correspond to random times of day, such as 1:25 or 10:15.
  • Mini-Cog Test©: This memory screening exam is a two-part exercise. It includes a recall test for memory and a simply scored clock drawing test. While not definitive, it is another tool to help a doctor identify potential problems.

Other Memory Screening Options to Consider

If your senior loved one is resistant to scheduling an appointment with their physician, and many are, here are some other options to consider:

  • Confidential screening sites: The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America established Memory Screening Sites where professionally trained staff administer confidential tests at no cost. You can search by zip code to find an AFA Memory Screening Site near you.
  • At-home testing: There are also screening tests that can be administered at home. One that is highly regarded is the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam (SAGE). It takes about 15 minutes to download and complete, and can detect the early signs of memory loss or abstract thought impairment.

You might also find it helpful to download and review COGNITIVE ASSESSMENT TOOLKIT: A guide to detect cognitive impairment quickly and efficiently during the Medicare Annual Wellness Visit. It outlines the process a senior’s physician will use to evaluate memory during their yearly wellness exam.

Memory Care at Sunrise

If your senior loved one does receive a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, there are a variety of options that will allow them to live their best quality of life despite their disease. One of these is a memory care program at Sunrise Senior Living. From memory-focused activities to dedicated dining spaces, it’s a long-term solution to explore for your loved one. Call (888) 434-4648 to learn more today!

Article By: Sunrise Senior Living

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