The tragedy of Alzheimer’s disease is exacerbated by tardy detection, especially since newly developed medications work better when started early. This problem inspired Dr. Douglas Scharre, a neurologist at the Ohio State University (OSU) Medical Center, to design a quick and simple test to help determine if someone is exhibiting the early memory and reasoning deficits that all too often foretell the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
In an OSU press release, Dr. Scharre (who specializes in treating Alzheimer’s) said it is often more than three or four years after symptoms of cognitive impairment first begin to appear before he sees affected patients. "People don’t come in early enough for a diagnosis, or families generally resist making the appointment because they don’t want confirmation of their worst fears," he said.
Scharre’s test is called the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE). Research shows that 80 percent of persons with mild thinking and memory issues will be detected by the test, and 95 percent of those with normal thinking will achieve normal SAGE scores.
While other accurate assessment instruments for cognitive disorders are presently in use, SAGE offers a number of advantages. Available cost-free to health workers, it only requires a paper, pen and about 15 minutes to self-administer. Therefore, it can be taken in the waiting room before seeing one’s doctor, doesn’t take much time away from medical staff or from the appointment itself, and is user-friendly for elders who are not comfortable with computers.
Abnormal scores can alert physicians to look for problems other than dementia, such as certain thyroid conditions, that can affect memory — and that may be treatable and reversible. Dr. Scharre added: "Abnormal test results can serve as an early warning to the patient’s family. The results can be a signal that caregivers may need to begin closer monitoring of the patient to ensure their safety and good health is not compromised and that they are protected from financial predators."
To read the full OSU press release about SAGE, click here. Healthcare personnel can download the actual test free of charge at www.sagetest.osu.edu.