Alzheimer’s disease is a complex disorder characterized by severe dementia that can interfere with brain health and cognitive function. Approximately 6 million people in the US live with Alzheimer’s disease, and that number is expected to grow at a high rate in the coming years. A progressive disease, Alzheimer’s causes memory impairment that typically worsens over time, along with a number of other mental and physical symptoms.
Since Alzheimer’s disease has such serious implications, many people are eager to find a reliable way to detect early signs so they can treat the condition effectively. While an Alzheimer’s diagnosis must come from a medical professional, certain at-home tests may provide insights into your risk of having or developing the disorder.
Below, we’re going to discuss Alzheimer’s symptoms and risk factors, along with ways you can examine yourself for possible signs of the disorder.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder characterized by progressive memory loss and cognitive impairment. The disorder can affect an individual’s thinking as well as their ability to walk, stand, eat, communicate, and perform everyday functions. It is often accompanied by anxiety, depression, irritability, and other mental health-related concerns.
Although there are ways to detect early signs and manage symptoms, there is not yet a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. Even with treatment, the disease continues to have degenerative effects on the brain. Treatment frequently seeks to minimize these effects by encouraging neuroplasticity, engagement, and personal care, as the disorder can be affected as it progresses.
Despite extensive, ongoing research funded by the Alzheimer’s Association and other groups, the precise cause of Alzheimer’s is still unknown. Autopsies of people with Alzheimer’s reveal foreign substances in the brain, depleted neural connections, and decreased gray matter — however, the “why” of these changes is not entirely understood. This can make it difficult to detect and impossible (at least presently) to prevent.
Identifying Possible Risks from Home
While there is no diagnostic at-home Alzheimer’s test, there are a couple of ways to learn more about your likelihood of developing the disorder. If you believe you are at risk for Alzheimer’s disease, consider talking to a doctor, regardless of the results of an at-home test.
Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam
A self-administered test may provide insight into the probability that you will eventually develop Alzheimer’s disease. The most widely accepted and utilized test is the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE), developed by Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center.
The SAGE test is a 12-question exam that measures cognitive functioning and may help a physician determine whether Alzheimer’s is present. It’s recommended that you bring your completed test to a medical professional who can score and interpret the results. If necessary, your doctors will provide further screening.
The test evaluates your ability to carry out everyday tasks, recall basic information, complete language tasks, and engage in problem-solving skills—all processes that are often significantly impaired when Alzheimer’s is present. Although having a specific score on the exam is not necessarily indicative of the presence of Alzheimer’s, it may indicate that further screening is necessary.
To give you an idea of how the test works, here is a sample question:
How many nickels are in 60 cents?
The test also has simple tests for your math and recall skills, such as:
- You are buying $13.45 of groceries. How much change would you receive back from a $20 bill?
- Write down the names of 12 different animals.
According to the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, there are multiple correct answers to most of the exam questions. The exam is easy to complete and has a 15-minute time limit. All you need is an internet connection, pen, and paper.
Approximately 18% of people who take the test go on to be positively identified for dementia. This makes the exam a promising avenue for early detection, as it allows people to take the first step toward receiving a diagnosis from a medical professional.
There is also an at-home genetic test to identify any risk of Alzheimer’s in your genes. The screening tool looks for a variation of the APOE gene that may contribute to Alzheimer’s — the e4 allele. Research shows that the e4 allele is the most prominent heritable risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. While this correlation is only one of many common risk factors, the gene’s presence may help provide more clarity when it comes to your chances of developing the disorder.
Again, discussing your test results with your healthcare provider is advised, as they will be able to interpret them and decide whether further action is necessary.
Alzheimer’s Disease And Dementia
While Alzheimer’s is a medical condition characterized by neurological degeneration, dementia is a broad term used to describe a state characterized by general mental decline. Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia that can be accompanied by specific symptoms not always present in other forms of dementia.
Dementia can be caused by old age, and it may be linked to other conditions related to a loss of brain function. This disorder is common among older populations, and though its symptoms aren’t always as severe as they are in Alzheimer’s patients, it is responsible for mental decline serious enough to alter a person’s ability to function.
Forgetfulness in geriatric populations is normal and doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of dementia. Typically, a dementia diagnosis requires a clear degeneration in the ability to function. Other symptoms of dementia include difficulty focusing, trouble tending to hygiene, and impaired reasoning skills.
Symptoms Of Alzheimer’s
The early symptoms of Alzheimer’s typically appear slowly, though in some cases they can come on suddenly. In addition to memory problems, people with Alzheimer’s can experience a variety of symptoms that signal cognitive decline, such as:
- Lack of motivation and spontaneity
- Impaired problem-solving skills
- Trouble completing self-care tasks
- Persistent confusion
- Vision changes
- Difficulty communicating
- Poor judgment
- Irritability, nervousness, and anger
- Pacing, wandering, and getting lost
Several risk factors have been connected to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, some of them visible as early as childhood. Researchers have discovered a link between autism spectrum disorder and Alzheimer’s disease. There is also a genetic component to Alzheimer’s, so a family history of the disorder can increase the likelihood of developing it.
Additionally, research shows that cardiovascular disease is positively correlated with Alzheimer’s disease. High cholesterol, hypertension, and diabetes, which are risk factors for heart disease, have also been linked to Alzheimer’s. There is evidence that a head injury could increase the risk of the disease as well.
Navigating An Alzheimer’s Diagnosis with Therapy
Alzheimer’s can cause fear and uncertainty in the lives of people who have received a diagnosis, as well as their loved ones. Support groups can be helpful for those dealing with complex feelings that often accompany an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. So can therapists and counselors.
Learning how to express and manage grief can be an important skill to learn if you or your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, and mental health professionals may be able to help create plans to do just that.
Online Therapy With BetterHelp
If you’re experiencing mental health challenges related to Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or similar concerns, know that help is available. With an online therapy platform like BetterHelp, you can participate in therapy from home, through video calls, voice calls, or in-app messaging. This is particularly useful for caregivers of people with dementia who must be at home often.
With BetterHelp, you can send questions or thoughts to your therapist as they come up—instead of having to remember them during sessions—and they will get back to you as soon as they are able. A licensed online therapist can connect you with useful resources and give you the care you deserve as you continue on your mental health journey.
The Effectiveness Of Online Therapy
There is a growing amount of evidence that online therapy can help those who are experiencing grief or other complex emotions that might arise from an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. For example, in one study researchers evaluated the benefits of online cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) on those experiencing complicated grief. According to researchers, symptoms of grief were significantly decreased after treatment, and these results were sustained at a 3-month follow-up.
These findings are in line with current research suggesting that online therapy is a useful method of treating an array of mental health challenges. Cognitive behavioral therapy works by helping individuals reframe the negative thought patterns that may be underlying unwanted emotions, such as grief so that they’re better prepared to deal with difficult situations.
When it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, early detection can play an important part in early intervention. At-home tests can help you determine whether a more thorough screening is necessary.
If you think you may have symptoms of Alzheimer’s, consulting with a medical professional is the only way to receive a proper screening and diagnosis. If you’d like help addressing mental health concerns that may be connected to Alzheimer’s, consider reaching out to an online therapist who can provide you with valuable support and guidance.
What is the 12-question dementia test?
The 12-question dementia test, often referred to as the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE), is a commonly used screening tool that evaluates cognitive functions. It includes sample questions that assess memory, calculation skills, and time orientation among other factors.
What are the questions asked in a dementia test?
Dementia tests like MMSE include sample questions designed to evaluate various cognitive functions like memory recall, arithmetic skills, and language proficiency. Questions may involve identifying the long hand and short hand on a clock, naming objects, and following simple commands.
What is the 4 A’s assessment for dementia?
The 4 A’s stand for Amnesia, Aphasia, Apraxia, and Agnosia, and this assessment is used to evaluate different aspects of cognitive function and behavior. It is generally used for older adults suspected to have dementia or other cognitive impairments.
What are the 7 stages of dementia?
The 7 stages of dementia range from ‘No Cognitive Decline’ to ‘Very Severe Cognitive Decline,’ encompassing various symptoms and abilities at each stage. Knowing the stages can improve quality of life by guiding care and treatment options, including certain medications.
Is there a home test for dementia?
Yes, there are online tests and apps available designed to evaluate memory and cognitive function, but they are not a replacement for professional diagnosis. If you are experiencing new problems with memory or cognitive function, consult healthcare professionals for an accurate diagnosis.
What does early dementia feel like?
Early dementia often feels like more than simple forgetfulness. It can involve confusion, disorientation, and changes in behavior and personality. Everyday tasks may suddenly become challenging, causing stress and affecting the quality of life.
Do I have dementia or am I just forgetful?
Forgetfulness is a common part of aging but persistent and progressive memory issues might be signs of dementia. Diagnosis typically involves a range of tests, and lifestyle factors like a healthy diet and lifestyle changes are also considered.
What is the famous face test for dementia?
The famous face test for dementia involves showing pictures of well-known people to the patient. The inability to recognize these large faces can indicate cognitive impairment and is often part of a broader dementia assessment.
What sleep position is linked to Alzheimer’s?
While research is ongoing, some studies suggest that sleeping on your side, as opposed to your back or stomach, may help in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. However, factors like stress, lifestyle changes, and certain medications can also play a role.
Where does Alzheimer’s usually start?
Alzheimer’s usually starts in the part of the brain that controls memory, specifically the hippocampus. As it progresses, it affects other regions and functions, impacting behavior, life quality, and eventually requiring full-time care.
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