There are many scenarios in which a physician may perform a dementia or memory loss screening. Perhaps the most common reason is suspected dementia but other reasons include stroke, brain injury, or routine check-up. The thought of any of these possibilities can be intimidating for patients or their caregivers. One of the best ways to alleviate these concerns is to be informed about what these screenings entail. The information will detail some of the most common memory loss screenings to create realistic expectations. If you or a loved one has additional questions or concerns regarding dementia, memory loss, or screenings on prevention and detection, contact our office today to schedule an appointment.

Types of Dementia and Memory Loss Screening Tests

Before beginning, it is important to note that many of the tests can also be used for many memory loss conditions. However, more extensive testing is typically required to make an Alzheimer's diagnosis. This is because dementia is a syndrome, or group of symptoms, whereas Alzheimer's is a disease in which certain plaques and amyloid proteins eventually change the structure of the patient's brain.

One type of test that can be helpful in making a diagnosis is a neurological examination. Most people will undergo a neurological examination at some point in their life because they only take a few minutes and can provide a lot of detail about the health of the nervous system. When dementia is suspected, it is necessary to perform one of these because it will help eliminate the possibility of other conditions. During the test, the patient may expect the doctor to lightly tap on various nerve endings with a small tool and judge the automatic reaction. They will also test eye reaction by having them follow an object and coordination by have them walk a straight line.

Another set of tests is the mental status tests. These can vary as far as the specifics of how they are administered but all are non-invasive and typically take less than a few minutes each. These are designed to determine whether or not the patient is aware of their symptoms, time, and space. As well as see how well their memory is, if they can follow instructions or do simple calculations. This is accomplished via the mini-mental state exam, mini-cog, and mood assessment. During the mini-mental state exam, the physician will ask a set of questions that will assess their day-to-day mental skills. These are scored from zero, the worst, to thirty, the best with a score between twelve to twenty-four indicating various levels of severity of the syndrome.

The mini-cognitive assessment usually takes anywhere from two to four minutes. This screening is considered very reliable in that it is highly specific but, more importantly, it seems to rarely affected by language or educational background. Patients will be told three random words and asked to repeat them. Then they will be asked to draw a clock with the hands indicating a specific time, and repeat the word sequence again. This assessment is scored from zero to five with scores between zero and two being indicative of the syndrome.
Medical testing can always present anxiety but knowing what these screenings involve may alleviate some of it. It is most important to remember that none of these screenings are invasive. Even if imaging is ordered in addition to the above tests, they will be non-invasive and help provide a holistic picture.