Diagnosing Alzheimer’s early is vital for receiving medications to delay symptoms and prolong life. An early diagnosis also gives the patient the opportunity to contribute to many of the decisions that will need to be made later.
There are no definitive tests for Alzheimer’s that can be taken at home. These small home-tests present indications of Alzheimer’s or Dementia but are no substitute for visiting your physician at the first sign of progressive memory loss.
A test that is often given first, is the Clock Drawing Test.
THE CLOCK DRAWING TEST
The person undergoing testing is asked to;
Draw a clock
Put in all the numbers
Set the hands at ten past eleven.
Scoring system for Clock Drawing test (CDT)
There are a number of scoring systems for this test. The Alzheimer’s disease cooperative scoring system is based on a score of five points.
1 point for the clock circle
1 point for all the numbers being in the correct order
1 point for the numbers being in the proper special order
1 point for the two hands of the clock
1 point for the correct time.
A normal score is four or five points.
The test can provide huge amounts of information about general cognitive and adaptive functioning such as memory, how people are able to process information and vision. A normal clock drawing almost always predicts that a person’s cognitive abilities are within normal limits.
The clock Drawing test does offer specific clues about the area of change or damage.
Research varies on the ability of the Clock Drawing test to differentiate between, for example, vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
A SIMPLE WORD TEST
This is a simple word test that may help in the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. It deals with the way in which our brain saves and stores memories. Since some words are learned earlier in childhood and used more frequently in adulthood, certain words will be more difficult for the Alzheimer’s patient to recall. Word association tests such as this seem to work well in detecting early stage Alzheimer’s.
- First ask the individual to name all the animals they can think of in one minute.
- Then ask her/him to name all the types of fruit they can remember in one minute.
Researchers have found that people with early Alzheimer’s are able to list only 10 to 15 words in contrast to the 20 to 25 words from a healthy individual.
The Sage Test is one of the latest and most highly recommended tests to be available for downloading and administering at home.
The Mini-Cog test is also a simple but highly recommended test for Alzheimer’s. I do remember that my Mom received this test. I was with her that day at her Doctor’s office and was stunned how poorly she did on this simple test. It has several parts and includes the Clock Drawing Test from the above.
The .pdf file for instructions and scoring can be found at About.com at this link
The Mini Cog Test
Dr. Martin Farlow is Professor and Vice Chairman of the Department of Neurology at Indiana University School of Medicine.
“Alzheimer’s disease affects approximately 5.3 million people in the U.S. Over time, Alzheimer’s disease gradually destroys a person’s memory and ability to learn and carry out daily activities such as talking, eating, and going to the bathroom. As the disease progresses, individuals may also experience changes in personality and behavior. Unfortunately, there are no cures for Alzheimer’s disease and there is no way to predict how fast someone will progress through the stages of the disease.“
- Memory loss. Although older memories might seem unaffected, people with dementia might forget recent experiences or important dates or events that interferes with daily life. Anyone can forget some details from a recent event or conversation or recall them later. People with dementia might forget the entire thing.
- Repetition. People with dementia may repeat stories, sometimes word for word. They may keep asking the same questions, no matter how many times they’re answered.
- Language problems. We all struggle to remember a word occasionally. People with dementia can have profound problems remembering even basic words. Their way of speaking may become contorted and hard to follow.
- Personality changes. People with dementia may have sudden mood swings. They might become emotional – upset or angry – for no particular reason. They might become withdrawn or stop doing things they usually enjoy. They could become uncharacteristically suspicious of family members — or trusting of telemarketers.
- Disorientation and confusion. People with dementia may get lost in places they know very well, like their own neighborhoods. They may have trouble completing basic and familiar tasks, like cooking dinner or shaving.
- Lack of hygiene. Sometimes this is the most obvious sign of Alzheimer’s disease. People who have dressed smartly every day of their lives might start wearing stained clothing or stop bathing.
- Odd behavior. We all misplace our keys from time to time. People with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are prone to placing objects in odd and wholly inappropriate places. They might put a toothbrush in the fridge or milk in the cabinet under the sink.
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