Memory test dementia

There is no definitive test

For most people, occasional lapses in memory are a normal part of the aging process, not a warning sign of serious mental deterioration or the onset of dementia.

Normal age-related forgetfulness

The following types of memory lapses are normal among older adults and generally are not considered warning signs of dementia:

  • Occasionally forgetting where you left things you use regularly, such as glasses or keys.
  • Forgetting names of acquaintances or blocking one memory with a similar one, such as calling a grandson by your son’s name.
  • Occasionally forgetting an appointment.
  • Having trouble remembering what you’ve just read, or the details of a conversation.
  • Walking into a room and forgetting why you entered.
  • Becoming easily distracted.
  • Not quite being able to retrieve information you have “on the tip of your tongue.”

Does your memory loss affect your ability to function?

The primary difference between age-related memory loss and dementia is that the former isn’t disabling. The memory lapses have little impact on your daily performance and ability to do what you want to do. Dementia, on the other hand, is marked by a persistent, disabling decline in two or more intellectual abilities such as memory, language, judgment, and abstract thinking.

When memory loss becomes so pervasive and severe that it disrupts your work, hobbies, social activities, and family relationships, you may be experiencing the warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease, or another disorder that causes dementia, or a condition that mimics dementia.

Normal age-related memory changes

Symptoms that may indicate dementia

Able to function independently and pursue normal activities, despite occasional memory lapses

Difficulty performing simple tasks (paying bills, dressing appropriately, washing up); forgetting how to do things you’ve done many times

Able to recall and describe incidents of forgetfulness

Unable to recall or describe specific instances where memory loss caused problems

May pause to remember directions, but doesn’t get lost in familiar places

Gets lost or disoriented even in familiar places; unable to follow directions

Occasional difficulty finding the right word, but no trouble holding a conversation

Words are frequently forgotten, misused, or garbled; Repeats phrases and stories in same conversation

Judgment and decision-making ability the same as always

Trouble making choices; May show poor judgment or behave in socially inappropriate ways

Symptoms of mild cognitive impairment (MCI)

Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is an intermediate stage between normal age-related cognitive changes and the more serious symptoms that indicate dementia. MCI can involve problems with memory, language, thinking, and judgment that are greater than normal age-related changes, but the line between MCI and normal memory problems is not always a clear one. The difference is often one of degrees. For example, it’s normal as you age to have some problems remembering the names of people. However, it’s not normal to forget the names of your close family and friends and then still be unable to recall them after a period of time.

If you have mild cognitive impairment, you and your family or close friends will likely be aware of the decline in your memory or mental function. But, unlike people with full-blown dementia, you are still able to function in your daily life without relying on others.

While many people with MCI eventually develop Alzheimer's disease or another type of dementia, that doesn’t mean it’s inevitable. Some people with MCI plateau at a relatively mild stage of decline while others even return to normal. The course is difficult to predict, but in general, the greater the degree of memory impairment, the greater your risk oIf developing dementia some time in the future.

Symptoms of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) include:

  • Frequently losing or misplacing things
  • Frequently forgetting conversations, appointments, or events
  • Difficulty remembering the names of new acquaintances
  • Difficulty following the flow of a conversation

MCI / Alzheimer’s Questionnaire

The following 21-question test is designed to measure mild cognitive impairment and your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The questions are intended to be answered by a spouse, close friend, or other loved one.

While the Alzheimer’s Questionnaire is considered quite accurate, it should not be used as a definitive guide to diagnosing mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's disease, but as a tool to test whether your loved one needs further assessment.

Use this questionnaire to test whether a person's memory loss needs further assessment.

Score:

Interpreting the score:

  • 0 to 4: No cause for concern
  • 5 to 14: Memory loss may be MCI, an early warning of Alzheimer's
  • 15 and above: Alzheimer's may have already developed

This questionnaire is not intended to replace professional diagnosis.

Source: BMC Geriatrics

When to see a doctor for memory loss

It’s time to consult a doctor when memory lapses become frequent enough or sufficiently noticeable to concern you or a family member. If you get to that point, make an appointment as soon as possible to talk with your primary physician and have a thorough physical examination. Even if you’re not displaying all the necessary symptoms to indicate dementia, now may be a good time to take steps to prevent a small problem becoming a larger one.

Your doctor can assess your personal risk factors, evaluate your symptoms, eliminate reversible causes of memory loss, and help you obtain appropriate care. Early diagnosis can treat reversible causes of memory loss, lessen decline in vascular dementia, or improve the quality of life in Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.

What to expect at your doctor's visit

The doctor will ask you a lot of question about your memory, including:

  • how long you or others have noticed a problem with your memory
  • what kinds of things have been difficult to remember
  • whether the difficulty came on gradually or suddenly
  • whether you’re having trouble doing ordinary things

The doctor also will want to know what medications you’re taking, how you’ve been eating and sleeping, whether you’ve been depressed or stressed lately, and other questions about what’s been happening in your life. Chances are the doctor will also ask you or your partner to keep track of your symptoms and check back in a few months. If your memory problem needs more evaluation, your doctor may send you to a neuropsychologist.

Reversible causes of memory loss

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