Adult children often find themselves wondering if changes they are noticing in a senior loved one’s behavior are normal signs of aging or if they are something more serious. It isn’t always easy to tell the difference even for health care professionals.
Confusion is an early warning sign of Alzheimer’s and related forms of dementia. But it can also be caused by reversible medical conditions such as dehydration, a urinary tract infection or a medication interaction.
The best way to know for certain is to schedule an appointment with your senior loved one’s primary care physician. Then take a few minutes to write down your list of concerns so you are organized and ready to go when you and your parent talk with their physician.
In most cases, the physician will conduct a screening test for dementia to determine whether or not further testing is needed.
Screening for Alzheimer’s & Dementia
Unfortunately, no single test exists that can accurately diagnosis Alzheimer’s. Instead, it is a process of testing for and eliminating other potential causes. A primary care physician will usually begin with a screening test for Alzheimer’s.
There are several different types of screenings that can help a physician detect early warning signs of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia including:
- Alzheimer’s Clock Test: This simple test is one that is often used. The health care professional will ask the older adult to draw a clock on a piece of paper and include the numbers from the face of a clock. The person being screened will then be asked to draw the hands on the clock to correspond to certain times, such as 9:40 or 3:15.
- Three Word Recall: The Alzheimer’s Association includes a three word recall in their mini-cognitive testing toolkit for physicians. The patient is given three words to remember before the screening moves on to another task. Then the physician will circle back and ask the patient to recite the three words back.
- SLUMS Examination: Another screening test for Alzheimer’s is one that is used by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs. The person administering this evaluation asks the senior a variety of questions such as what year it is, what day of the week and the name of the state they are in. It also includes other tests to evaluate short-term memory.
Memory Screening Locations
Another option for families with a senior loved one who is reluctant to talk with their physician is a program created by the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. Their National Memory Screening Program makes it easy for older adults to find a location near them for a private screening with a health care professional.
While it’s important to note that this type of screening is not one that will definitely test for Alzheimer’s, it can help you learn whether or not you should seek additional testing for a loved one you are concerned about.
Heartland Village Memory Care
Elmcroft Senior Living has experienced memory care experts. If you have questions about Alzheimer’s or a related form of dementia, we encourage you to call the community nearest you for help.