Difficulty in memorizing recent events, acquiring new knowledge and maintaining focus are some of the main symptoms of Alzheimer's, a disease that affects elderly people over 60. To get an early diagnosis, an American neurologist developed a test capable of detecting in about 5 minutes the first signs of the disease.
What is Alzheimer's disease
Alzheimer's is a neurodegenerative disease that reduces the working capacity of the brain, interfering with recent memory loss and behavior. The causes of the disease are yet unknown.
Test to detect Alzheimer's
The test created by neurologist James Galvin is composed of 10 questions with 5 multiple choice answers, and even if it is not a complete diagnosis, it can identify cognitive changes.
The test was done in several hospitals in the United States, but it does not need to be performed by doctors. Because it is very simple, relatives and caretakers can perform it. Besides learning if the individual has the disease or not, the test can determine the stage in which it may be.
How is it done
The test is composed of questions about memory, communication, orientation, hygiene, attention and concentration, and each answer scores points. The final score can go from 0 to 30 points. The higher the result, the bigger the chance the patient has of having the disease. Depending on the score, it is important to seek the help of an expert.
- 0 point - No obvious loss of memory. Irregular forgetfulness that does not interfere with daily activities;
- 0,5 point - Slight and regular or partial forgetting of events, which can interfere with daily activities; repeats questions and phrases, places objects in unusual places; forgets appointments;
- 1 point - Light to moderate memory loss, most noticeable when dealing with recent events; interferes with daily activities;
- 2 points - Moderate to severe memory loss; new information is quickly forgotten; only remembers information learned with much effort;
- 3 points - Severe memory loss; almost impossible to remember new information; long-term memory may be affected.
- 0 - Fully oriented regarding people, space and time almost always;
- 0.5 - Slight difficulty to keep track of time; may forget dates more often than in the past;
- 1 - Light to moderate difficulty in keeping track of time and sequences of events; forgets the month of the year; oriented in familiar places, but gets confused outside known spaces; gets lost and wanders;
- 2 - Moderate to severe difficulty; usually disoriented as to time and space (familiar or not); often has difficulty remembering the past;
- 3 - Oriented only as to their own name, although able to recognize relatives.
Decision making and problem-solving
- 0 - Solves everyday problems easily; handles personal and financial issues well; decision-making skills consistent;
- 0.5 - Slight trouble (or longer delay) in solving problems; difficulty with abstract concepts; decisions still consistent;
- 1 - Moderate difficulties in dealing with problems and making decisions; delegates many decisions to others; social perception and behavior may be slightly compromised; loss of judgment;
- 2 - Severely debilitated in dealing with problems, making only simple personal decisions; social perception and behavior often debilitated; no discernment;
- 3 - Unable to make decisions or solve problems; a third party makes almost all decisions for them.
- 0 - Carries out their job independently, goes shopping, does community and religious activities, voluntarily and in social groups;
- 0.5 - Slight difficulty in these activities compared to previous performances; a slight change in driving skills; still able to handle emergencies;
- 1 - Unable to function independently, but still able to keep up with social obligations; seems "normal" to others; noticeable changes in driving skills; concerns about their ability to handle emergencies;
- 2 - No ability to do outside activities independently; seems well enough to be taken to outside activities, but usually needs to be accompanied;
- 3 - Unable to practice activities independently; seems too ill to be taken to outside activities.
House abilities and hobbies
- 0 - Activities at home, hobbies and personal interests the same when compared to previous behavior;
- 0.5 - Slight difficulty or loss of interest in doing these activities; difficulty in operating equipment (especially the newest);
- 1 - Light but definitive difficulty at home and in hobbies; abandoned more difficult tasks, as well as more complex hobbies and interests;
- 2 - Keeps only the simplest daily activities; very restricted interest in hobbies, done with little rigor;
- 3 - No significant ability in domestic tasks or previous hobbies.
- 0 - Fully capable of taking care of oneself, dressing, washing, bathing, using the bathroom;
- 0.5 - Slight changes in skills regarding these activities;
- 1 - Needs to be reminded to go to the bathroom, but can do it independently;
- 2 - Needs help dressing up and showering; occasionally incontinent;
- 3 - Requires considerable help with hygiene and personal care; frequent incontinence.
Changes in behavior and personality
- 0 - Proper social behavior, in public and private; no change in personality;
- 0.5 - Questionable or very slight changes in behavior, personality, emotional control, the pertinence of choices;
- 1 - Mild changes in behavior or personality;
- 2 - Moderate changes in behavior or personality, affecting the interaction with people; can be avoided by friends, neighbors or distant relatives;
- 3 - Severe changes in behavior or personality, making interactions with others unfeasible or unpleasant.
Language and communication skills
- 0 - No difficulty in language or forgetting words; reads and writes as well as in the past;
- 0.5 - Slight difficulty but shows consistency in finding the words or descriptive terms; may take longer to complete reasoning; slight problems of understanding; impaired conversation skills; there may be effects on reading and writing;
- 1 - Moderate difficulty in finding the right words; unable to name objects; noticeable reduction in vocabulary; understanding, conversation, reading and writing reduced;
- 2 - Moderate or severe difficulty in speaking or understanding; difficulty in communicating thoughts to others; limited ability to read and write;
- 3 - Severe language and communication deficits; little or no understandable speech.
- 0 - No change of mood, interest or motivation;
- 0.5 - Occasional moments of sadness, depression, anxiety, nervousness or loss of interest/motivation;
- 1 - Moderate but daily episodes of sadness, depression, anxiety, nervousness or loss of interest/motivation;
- 2 - Moderate episodes of sadness, depression, anxiety, nervousness or loss of interest/motivation;
- 3 - Severe episodes of sadness, depression, anxiety, nervousness or loss of interest/motivation.
Attention and concentration
- 0 - Regular attention, concentration, and interaction with surroundings;
- 0.5 - Mild problems of attention, concentration or interaction with the environment; may seem drowsy during the day;
- 1 - Moderate problems of attention and concentration; may stare at a point in space or keep eyes closed for some periods; increasing sleepiness during the day;
- 2 - Spends a considerable part of the day sleeping; does not pay attention to surroundings; when talking, says illogical things or that are not related to the subject;
- 3 - Limited or non-existent ability to pay attention to the external environment.
The test does not replace a medical diagnosis. The score can go from zero to 30. The higher scores suggest higher cognitive loss. The evaluation standards, from the application of the test in 267 patients, indicate that:
Normal: 0-1 points
Slight cognitive impairment: 2 to 5 points
Light dementia: 6 to 12 points
Moderate dementia: 13 to 20 points
Severe dementia: 20 to 30 points