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How to Test Your Memory for Alzheimer's and Dementia (TYM, MMSE)

Posted Jul 01 2009 5:37pm
A recent HBO Alzheimer's Project/Harris Interactive Poll revealed that 54% of the U.S. population, or more than 100 million people, have been touched in some way by Alzheimer's. The same poll indicated that roughly a third of Americans are worried about getting Alzheimer's.

Touched by Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's is a sinister disease that is hard to detect. It is not unusual for people in an early stage of dementia to live by themselves, drive an automobile, shop at the grocery store, and pay their own bills.
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If you met my mother, who has been suffering from Alzheimer's for years, you might never know that she is suffering from dementia. She can hold a fascinating conversation with a complete stranger. If you talk to my mother and ask her age, she'll look at me. When I tell the stranger she is 93 years old they are often blown away.

She will tell the person she has never been sick in her life, has never taken a pill (she takes seven medications each day), still drives a car (she hasn't driven in six years), and just about anything that comes to her mind. When she tells her "stories" she sounds very believable.

Meanwhile, if you were to ask her what year it is, what month, what day of the week, or what she had to eat five minutes ago she could not answer any of those questions.

It took four different doctors to diagnose her dementia five years ago.

Researchers at the Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge, England have developed a new test for Alzheimer's. The results for Test Your Memory (TYM) were released in a recent article in the journal BMJ.The test can be administered in five minutes, and the researchers found it was 93 percent accurate at detecting Alzheimer's.

Over the last 20 years, doctors have been using the Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE) to test patients for Alzheimer's and dementia in their offices. Doctors like the test because they can administer the test in a few minutes and get on to their next patient.

The MMSE, the most widely used test for Alzheimer's, has an accuracy rate of 52 percent. If you are worried about Alzheimer's or dementia and your doctor offers to administer the MMSE, tell him to forget it. You can flip a coin and get a similar result.

If you are interested in the tests follow the appropriate link:
  • Go here for Test Your Memory (TYM).
  • Go here for the TYM Scoring Sheet.
  • The Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE). Update. I had the link for the MMSE on this website. However, I received an email from Par Inc. asking me to remove the link from this article-- immediately. This was a bit surprising since I did not use the test , or reproduce it in this article. The link I did use was obtained via a simple Google search.
For the research article, Self-Administered Cognitive Screening Test (TYM) for Detection of Alzheimer's, go here. The article contains all the details of the research study and information on scoring the test.

If you decide to self-administer the test, or test a relative, keep a few things in mind:

  • A score of 47 or higher probably means that the person is not likely to suffer from Alzheimer's at the time of the test.
  • A poor score could be caused by factors other than Alzheimer's. These include, but are not limited to, dyslexia or anxiety.
The test is not intended as the final diagnostic. It could be useful in identifying Alzheimer's early; but if a person scores poorly, a thorough evaluation by a specialist or a neurologist would be necessary to confirm the result.

Bob DeMarco is an Alzheimer's caregiver and editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room. The Alzheimer's Reading Room is the number one website on the Internet for advice and insight into Alzheimer's disease. Bob taught at the University of Georgia, was an executive at Bear Stearns, the CEO of IP Group, and is a mentor. He has written more than 700 articles with more than 18,000 links on the Internet. Bob resides in Delray Beach, FL.

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