How Are Adults Screened for Memory Problems?

November 12, 2018

If you are asking if the changes you see in a senior loved one are typical signs of aging or early signs of Alzheimer’s, you may also wonder how people are screened for memory problems.

If you’ve noticed changes in a senior loved one, you might worry about what could be wrong. Family members often wonder how to distinguish the normal signs of aging from issues that might indicate a more serious problem. The truth is, even experienced physicians sometimes have trouble making that distinction.

Forgetfulness and confusion are classic early warning signs of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. However, there are other health conditions, some reversible, that can also cause those symptoms. A vitamin deficiency, an infection, or an adverse reaction to a medication can produce symptoms that mimic Alzheimer’s.

If you are concerned about a senior loved one’s health, the best thing to do is schedule an appointment with their primary care physician. He or she will be able to complete a physical and a memory screening test to determine if further testing is necessary.

Screening Tests for Alzheimer’s & Dementia

People are often surprised to discover that no single test will definitively diagnosis Alzheimer’s. Diagnosis is a process of eliminating other potential causes for the symptoms a senior is experiencing. However, there are several screenings that can help health care professionals detect the signs of cognitive changes.

Two of those tests are:

  • Alzheimer’s Clock Test: This is the screening test many physicians use. The doctor will ask their patient 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: Another screening exam a physician might use is the mini cog test. It has two parts: a 3-item recall test and a simply scored clock drawing test. While not definitive, it can help a doctor identify potential problems.

If your senior family member won’t allow you to schedule an appointment with their physician, there is another option to consider. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America has established Memory Screening Sites. Trained professionals administer the confidential tests at no cost. You can search by zip code to find an AFA Memory Screening Site near you.

Finally, there are several tests that can be administered at home. One that is highly regarded is the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam (SAGE). This memory screening takes about 15 minutes to download and complete. It can detect the early signs of memory loss or abstract thought impairment.

The Harbor Memory Care at Legacy

If a loved one does receive the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, it’s important to know that there are a wide variety of resources available to help them live their best life despite the disease. Residents in our state-of-the-art memory care program, The Harbor, benefit from our unique approach to care. Call the community nearest you to arrange a private tour today.