Screening for dementia

Do you know someone who might have dementia?

The diagnosis of dementia requires changes in cognitive function over several months or more.  People with dementia may lose interest in hobbies, be unable to complete complex tasks such as preparing food or lose track of important information such as appointments or due dates for bills.

Dementia is a medical condition diagnosed after a careful interview, a medical exam and medical tests.  There are several screening tests that are used to help decide if comprehensive testing is needed.

Some of these tests will evaluate:

  1. orientation.  Do you know what day it is?  What the date is?  What the year is?  Do you know what city you are in?  Do you know what street or floor you are on?
  2. short term memory.  Repeat the names of three words.  Recall them again after 1 minute.
  3. attention.  Count backwards from 20.  Spell a five letter word backwards.

The answers to these questions do not diagnose dementia, but if a person finds it hard to answer them, formal evaluation and treatment may be helpful.