The term ‘dementia’ refers to a set of symptoms that an individual experiences when their brain is damaged by certain conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease or strokes. Memory loss can have a huge impact on somebody’s life, affecting their ability to carry out daily tasks, concentrate, or plan and organise their routine. Therefore, it is important that the signs of dementia are recognised and addressed as soon as possible.
Whilst there is no single diagnostic test to determine whether or not a person has dementia, there are a variety of approaches and tools that physicians may take.
This can include a review of an individual’s medical history, including psychiatric history and behavioural changes, a physical exam and diagnostic tests, a neurological exam and brain imaging. Interestingly, physicians may also run mental status, or memory tests in order to evaluate whether a person is medically affected by memory loss.
These tests can check the status of someone’s memory, wider thinking skills and their ability to deal with and solve simple tasks. They can be carried out by a GP, specialists at a hospital or staff at a specialist Memory Assessment Clinic.
One commonly used assessment is the Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE). Here, an individual is asked a series of questions which test everyday cognitive skills. With a maximum score of 30 points, the test scores are then grouped to determine the level of dementia an individual has. Mild dementia is indicated by a score of 20 – 24 and moderate dementia is suggested by 13 – 20 points, whilst a score of less than 12 suggests severe dementia.
Another test that is widely used is the Mini-Cog, where an individual completes two practical tasks in front of a health professional. They must remember the names of three common objects and later repeat them, before drawing the face of a clock that includes all 12 numbers in the correct positions and hands pointing to a determined time. As this test is fairly brief, it provides a good starting point for professionals to decide if further evaluation is a good idea.
Something else that is being explored through more and more research are devices that administer computer-based cognitive tests for individuals to take. Professionals are keen to see these develop further, as they allow for the same test to be given each time. When used in tandem with clinical tests, they can also help to create a fuller picture of the cognitive difficulties that an individual may be living with.
When an individual visits a GP, they may also be asked a series of questions to establish if they are having problems with concentration or memory. These usually address things one might be ‘expected’ to remember, such as what the day, time or year is, who the Prime Minister is or how to count backwards.
Accessing memory tests and a full professional diagnosis is crucial in order to ensure an individual can access support and live well. If you or a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, Gracewell Healthcare provides high quality care in luxury environments across the country, personalised for every resident. Dedicated and compassionate care teams and nurses are essential for those living with dementia, and Gracewell’s professionals are trained to offer specialist residential care, nursing care, dementia care and respite care. To learn more and find a Gracewell care home near you, click here.