Age Matters Clinic


Toronto Geriatric Assessment and Memory Clinic

Can An At-Home Dementia Test Help With Early Detection?

Dementia is a serious issue facing men and women all over the world. It affects people of all ages, but occurs most commonly in those who are over the age of 65. It can include general forgetfulness and memory loss, but may also be linked to more serious diseases like Alzheimer's. With the number of dementia patients expected to rise significantly by the year 2021, early detection is more important than ever. Why? It can lead to proper diagnosis and treatment methods.

Recently, a group of researchers from Ohio State University developed an at-home test designed to note early signs of dementia. In all, the test takes just 15 minutes to complete and can be done by hand or filled out online. It works by testing for comprehension, reasoning skills, memory, problem solving, and even the ability to understand language. The test is thought to help detect dementia and other memory related issues early on. How does it work? Based on the results of the test, seniors would know whether or not they need to set up an appointment with a doctor for further testing.

This is certainly a unique idea, particularly because it can be done from home at any time or at a physicians office. Dr Douglas Scharre, who developed the dementia test, believes that taking the test periodically could benefit the health of senior citizens. He said of the results, "The moment we notice any changes in their cognitive abilities, we can intervene much more rapidly." That means the test would help to note any small changes in memory or cognitive thinking.... small changes that are often overlooked or go unnoticed by doctors and family members.

So, instead of waiting for symptoms to become worse or develop further, this test may be able to detect them much earlier. That opens the door to additional treatment methods that may be able to slow down the progression of dementia. Dr. Scharre went on to speak about the importance of early detection. "We are finding better treatments and we know that patients do much better if they start the treatments sooner than later." This is important, as this test could make early detection much simpler.

What kinds of questions were included in the Ohio State University dementia test? Participants in the study were asked to answer questions related to basic information (What is the current date and year?), to identify pictures (What does this picture represent?), were tested on reasoning skills (How are a watch and ruler similar? How are they different?), and of course, memory retention (Write down the names of 12 different animals). Many different areas were examined to ensure that no signs of dementia were present.

While this research is certainly a step in the right direction, it is important to note that an at-home test cannot definitively diagnose dementia. However, it can be used as a red flag of sorts for senior citizens, their partners, and family members. The information found from the test can be taken to an appropriate physician. From there, they can further explore the problem and look into specific treatment options.

A dementia test is a compelling idea. By answering questions every so often, it may become simpler to gauge small changes in memory, rather than waiting for it to become a serious problem. Early detection can lead to earlier treatment...which is always a benefit when dealing with dementia.