Cognitive dementia tests
Experts established the dementia tests that doctors currently use in the 1970s. A doctor may ask questions such as:
· What is your age?
· What is the time, to the nearest hour?
· What is your address?
· What is the year?
· What is your date of birth?
The doctor may also consider observations by family members and caregivers.
If the results suggest memory loss, the doctor may carry out blood tests and a CT brain scan to investigate further and rule out other possible causes.
Another test, called the mini-mental state examination — which has also been in use since the 1970s — measures:
· orientation to time and place
· word recall
· language abilities
· attention and calculation
· visuospatial skills
It can help diagnose dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease. It can also rate its severity and assess whether or not drug treatment is appropriate.
The doctor may also carry out a test known as the Mini-Cog test. This involves the following steps:
· The doctor will take three words from a specific set, “banana, sunrise, chair,” and ask the person to repeat them. The person can have three attempts at this.
· If the person cannot do this, the doctor will ask them to draw a clock face, fill in the numbers, and set the hands to a specific time. The person should do this within 3 minutes.
· If the individual cannot complete the clock task in time, the doctor will ask them to recall and repeat the three words from the first task.
There will be a maximum of 10 points. If the person scores fewer than 3–4 points, the doctor will consider dementia as a possible diagnosis.
There is currently no cure for most types of dementia, as it is not yet possible to reverse brain cell death. However, treatment may help manage symptoms.
Some medications may help reduce the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. Three drugs known as cholinesterase inhibitors, have approval for use in the United States. They are:
· donepezil (Aricept)
· galantamine (Reminyl)
· rivastigmine (Exelon)
· Cholinesterase inhibitors can also help manage behavioral symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
A person may also use memantine (Namenda), which is an NMDA receptor antagonist, either alone or with a cholinesterase inhibitor.
If the symptoms result from an injury, medication use, or a vitamin deficiency, it may be possible to prevent further damage.
Other forms of care
Some lifestyle strategies that may help manage dementia include making sure the person:
· follows a healthy diet
· gets regular exercise
· attends all medical appointments
· takes their medication as prescribed
· has regular sleep habits
· has a safe living space
· has support from family members and caregivers, as needed
In most cases, it is not possible to prevent dementia. However, the WHO suggests that the following habits may lower the risk:
· exercising regularly
· avoiding smoking
· limiting alcohol consumption
· maintaining a moderate weight
· eating a healthy diet
· seeking treatment for conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and high blood sugar levels
· Wearing protective headgear during contact sports may also lower the risk of sustaining repeated head injuries, which could be a risk factor for dementia.
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