How to Test Your Memory For Alzheimer’s Disease
Can you test for Alzheimer’s disease using a series of cognitive tests? If you were to believe everything you read online, you can perform easy home tests for Alzheimer’s disease. Is this true? It is very far from the truth. However, cognitive tests are part of the process of diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia disorders. You can read our full review of Alzheimer’s disease here.
First of all, it is worthwhile pointing out that Alzheimer’s is not the only type of cognitive disease which may produce symptoms which are similar to dementia disorders. You may have a few symptoms which you think are related to Alzheimer’s. However, to test for Alzheimer’s and achieve an effective diagnosis, many factors need to be taken into account.
The onset of these symptoms can start many years before they are noticed by medical professionals. Those of us who are concerned about Alzheimer’s or may have a family history of the disease, are keen to try to identify signs and symptoms.
However, interpreting the results can be a challenge. In some forms of Alzheimer’s disease such as in Early Onset Alzheimer’s, symptoms develop very rapidly. It is therefore important to understand what type of Alzheimer’s or other related cognitive diseases that you may be dealing with. Only a doctor can help you to do that, and it is always best to turn to a specialist.
Pros and Cons for Alzheimer’s Tests for Cognitive Function and Memory
With so many pros and cons, it is important to understand what goes on in the brain. You may not have Alzheimer’s at all. A medication or supplement that you are taking may, for instance, interfere with your cognitive function. Other influencing factors include alcohol abuse, stress, and living in a polluted area.
The diagnostic process of Alzheimer’s disease is a long one, and many factors need to be taken into account.
The TYM Test
The TYM test for Alzheimer’s is thought to create a permanent record of cognitive function. It consists of 10 tasks and many doctors use it as a diagnostic tool to detect mild forms of Alzheimer’s disease. You can download it online, but like so many other tests for Alzheimer’s, it is open to interpretation.
For doctors and medical professionals, this is a time-saving test to use as patients fill in the information themselves. The main purpose of the test is to test spatial awareness, semantic knowledge, and anterograde memory. However, it can cause a lot of anxiety if you try to understand the results yourself.
Pros of the TYM test:
- Creates a permanent record
- Tests 10 cognitive function
- Little experience needed in interpreting the test
Cons of the TYM Test:
- Open to interpretation
- Does not require special clinical knowledge
- Does not take other factors into account
- The doctor does not always observe the patient when completing the test
The SAGE Test
The SAGE test for Alzheimer’s and dementia was developed by doctors at Ohio State University.
It is slightly longer than the TYM test and it stands or Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam. Once again, it is a test that you can complete at home. We have reviewed this test in detail here.
Unlike the TYM test, it takes a little bit longer for you to complete. Once you are done, you take it to your doctor, and he will run it through with you. It basically evaluates your cognitive function and there are four different tests that you can take. Does it matter which one of the four tests you take? It does not really as the results must still be analyzed.
Pros of the Sage Test:
- Easy to do at home
- No pressure and time limit
- Download the test yourself
- Creates a record of your current cognitive function
- Not age restrictive
Cons of the Sage Test:
- Results should be studied by a specialist, not a family doctor
- Not a physical and visual examination
- Does not take other influencing factors into account
The Mini-Cog Test for Alzheimer’s
This is one of the most popular tests for Alzheimer’s and dementia and has so far stood the test of time better than other tests. The Mini-Cog tests only take about 3 minutes to perform and are done in front of a medical professional. The test measures two influencing factors – short term and clock drawing. It is not a complete tool. However, it works well and the doctor does observe the patient which is very important.
The patient is asked to remember three words and asked to recall them after they have drawn the clock. Developed by Dr. Soo Borson, it gives the doctor a chance to quickly assess the patient and refer to a specialist if necessary.
The Clock Drawing Test
The Clock drawing test has been around for some time now. It is a well-established test that will when administered correctly, give a doctor valuable information. A doctor, or other medical professional, asks the patient to draw a clock showing a certain time. The interesting thing about this test is that you need to be able to draw the clock in the first place, and then figure out where to put the hands.
As the patient is being observed while doing this, it gives the doctor an insight into how the person retrieves memory. It also allows him or her to monitor the patient closely and observe things like motor skills and spatial relationship problems as well.
The Clock Drawing test can be scored in different ways. The simplest way of scoring the test is just as valuable as the more complicated 15 point scoring system.
Pros of the Clock Drawing Test
- Easy to use
- Does not require a complicated questionnaire
- Allows for observation
- Is quick to perform
- Can be used by anybody
Cons of the Clock Drawing Test
- Some say it is too simple
- A person with dyslexia may have problems with this test
- Can cause worrying results that may not be correct
All of these tests have one thing in common – they are not conclusive proof of the person having Alzheimer’s disease. Further tests need to be carried out and a proper medical valuation is essential at all times.
Taking these tests yourself can actually cause alarm. It is important to understand that the symptoms and signs you are experiencing may not be related to Alzheimer’s. There is a range of other conditions which can cause similar symptoms.
You also need to be aware that medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs, statins, and others are associated with dementia-like symptoms. Even the popular supplement CBD oil can cause bizarre side effects which can be frightening. This is why you need to bring all of your medications, including your supplements, to your doctor.
Some mineral and vitamin deficiencies may also produce results which are of concern. In fact, vitamin B12 deficiency and mineral deficiencies have the ability to mimic Alzheimer’s. An experienced doctor will ask for blood tests to be carried out as he or she will know that deficiencies do play a role. An elderly person may not eat so well, and this is what causes many of the vitamin and mineral deficiencies that we see in older people. It can be very hard to monitor an older person’s food intake.
What Your Doctor May Tell You
If your doctor concerned about the test results, he will refer to a specialist and for a scan. There are different ways of scanning for Alzheimer’s. A PET scan can help to find the plaques associated with Alzheimer’s.
Your doctor may even confuse you by using certain words and concepts which you have not heard before. Many seniors do not like to ask, and it is a good idea to take a person with you who likes to get to “bottom of things”.
Doctors do have a habit of speaking another language. They think they sound professional but many times patients do not understand them. Familiarizing yourself with some of the words and phrases used will help a great deal.
Common Terms Explained
Semantic Knowledge – this is part of the long-term memory process and refers to the part of memory which stores information not gained from personal experience. Most common semantic items include colors, the way you pronounce a word and names of countries. They are often basic facts which a patient should remember. For instance, a doctor may ask what countries a patient has visited to establish if his or her semantic memory (knowledge) works well.
Anterograde Memory – refers to short-term memory and not being able to create new memories. This is very common in dementia disorders including Alzheimer’s.
Short-Term Recall – where did I put my car keys or where did I park the car? Both are good examples of short-term recall.
Executive Memory – executive memory is very important to us. Most of the time we don’t even think about it – we just do it. Executive memory can be something as simple as remembering how to brush your teeth or how to have a shower. Many dementia sufferers have problems with personal hygiene, and this is caused by a lack of executive memory.
Functioning Memory – working memory i.e. functioning memory comes into play when we make decisions or consider things in terms of importance. It is common in all types of dementia, but seems to occur more often in Alzheimer’s sufferers.
Can I Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease?
This is a big question that a lot of people ask themselves. Scientists have identified at least 50 factors that can influence Alzheimer’s. Just like many other health conditions, it can be affected by lifestyle, but our DNA is very much part of the equation. Early Onset Alzheimer’s is strictly a genetic condition. However, there are triggering factors for underlying genetic conditions.
We are learning more and more about Alzheimer’s disease, and some of the triggering factors have been recognized.
It is next to impossible to effectively diagnose what has triggered a case of Alzheimer’s disease. Interestingly enough, it is more common in people who may have retired early. Staying active is important and seems to decrease your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
What can you do to help yourself? There are many things that you can do. Most importantly it is crucial to make lifestyle changes. Make sure that you stay active, eat well, and get plenty of exercise.
Dog owners seem to suffer less from Alzheimer’s disease. Interestingly enough, dogs do so much more than help to keep us fit. Dog owners also have lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. A high level of cortisol is linked to a greater chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
In the next couple of years, we are likely to see more drugs become available that will help to prevent and lower the risk of Alzheimer’s. In the meantime, there are plenty of things that you can do. Supplements and vitamins can help. There is a strong argument for taking a high strength vitamin B complex. You may also want to consider adding a good quality Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids (fish oil) to your diet.
It has been proven that the neurons in your brain can live for more than a hundred years. The risk of dementia-related disorders decreases when you hit your 80’s. Why this is we don’t know. But, our brains are amazing and perhaps we should all learn how to appreciate them a little bit more.
Alzheimer’s disease is very complicated. Don’t lose heart, and above all, don’t get scared. The symptoms you or a relative may be experiencing may not be related to Alzheimer’s disease.