A Home Test Paves a New Path for Early Diagnosis of Dementia
Part of the aging process is the slow decline of brain function, also known as cognitive impairment. Just like other aspects of the body, the mind changes with each passing year which often results in forgetfulness or increased strain in completing thought processes. While mild forms of cognitive impairment are common, more serious cases, including Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, are cause for concern.
Around the world, millions of older adults struggle with a loss of brain functionality. It impairs their ability to live a quality life without the assistance of a caregiver or family member. Alzheimer’s and dementia affects one in three people over the age of 65, and two in three are women. As individuals continue to longer lives, it is expected that more cases of Alzheimer’s and dementia will appear in the coming years.
Promise in Early Detection
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s or dementia, but some medical research points to hope in developing a resolution to the common issue with the help of early detection. One tool used in getting ahead of the debilitating quality of life that comes with severe cognitive impairment is the self-administered gerocognitive examination, or SAGE for short.
SAGE was developed by medical researchers at Ohio State University in 2014 and has continued to show promising results in recognizing early cognitive impairment in those who complete the exam. The test is completed at home, instead of at a medical facility or doctor’s office, and can be done in as little as 15 minutes. Included within SAGE are 12 questions that gauge the brain function of the test taker, including activities like writing out a list of items in the next room over or answering a simple math word problem. If a certain number of questions are unanswered or are answered incorrectly, it is likely that the individual taking the exam should be encouraged to see a care provider for further testing.
SAGE does not provide a full diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia but instead acts as an intermediary between a potentially suffering individual and his or her primary care physician. Family members who are concerned about the declining memory or overall brain function of a parent or relative can download SAGE online, have the individual complete the exam at home, and then follow up as needed with a doctor. The ability to gain insight before making a doctor’s appointment is a powerful step toward early detection, and ultimately, early treatment.
A Shift Toward Prevention
Early detection of cognitive impairment is necessary as the older population continues to grow in size. A representative from a medical negligence team that works with care home claims explains, “Pressure continues to be placed on health care systems around the world, leading to less time for extensive cognitive testing during routine visits. If attention is not placed on the early detection through simple at-home tests like SAGE, patients suffering from cognitive impairment stand the lose out on receiving the quality of care they need and deserve.” Therefore, a focus on prevention should be a top priority for healthcare systems, and SAGE offers one method to accomplish this large task.
Although SAGE and similar tests do not solve the growing problems faced by individuals living with Alzheimer’s or dementia, they do represent progress toward a prevention plan that paves the way for a less burdened health care system and higher quality care for suffering patients. The earlier cognitive issues are recognized, the sooner patients have the potential to discuss their circumstances with a medical professional. Once that takes place, an appropriate, beneficial plan of treatment can be prescribed to assist dementia and Alzheimer’s suffers in leading a healthy life well into their golden years.