Worried About Your Memory? A Short Test You Can Take at Home Helps Spot Early Dementia

 Person taking SAGE test

Testing for early dementia

Less than 15 minutes is all it takes to complete a written test that could uncover early signs of Alzheimer’s or other causes of dementia. It’s called the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination or SAGE test and consists of 22 questions that evaluate the following areas:

  • Orientation (month, date, year)
  • Language
  • Reasoning
  • Visual and spatial awareness
  • Problem solving
  • Memory

Sample questions include:

  • What is today’s date?
  • Do you have more difficulties doing everyday activities due to thinking problems?
  • How are a watch and a ruler similar?
  • Draw a large face of a clock and place in the numbers
  • Have you finished?

SAGE study

Researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center enlisted 1047 people over the age of 50 to take the SAGE test; 28% were identified with cognitive impairment. Dr. Douglas Scharre, who heads the Memory Disorders Research Center at Ohio State, helped develop the test. In a press release, he said that doctors often don’t recognize subtle cognitive problems during routine office visits and that people who take the test at home should share the results with their doctors because it can provide important baseline information. If you miss six or more points, you should probably have further testing. “If we catch this cognitive change really early, then we can start potential treatments much earlier than without having this test,” Scharre said. “We can give them the test periodically and, the moment we notice any changes in their cognitive abilities, we can intervene much more rapidly,”

Dr. Scharre says treatment for Alzheimer’s and other causes of dementia are more effective when they’re started in the earliest stages. Unfortunately, most people wait three to four years after symptoms first appear before seeking treatment. Another reason why it’s important to identify possible symptoms early on is because cognitive or memory issues don’t always mean someone has dementia. There are other causes of dementia and some are reversible.

Reversible causes of dementia

    • Depression
    • Infections
    • Dehydration or malnutrition
    • Alcohol abuse
    • Vitamin deficiency
    • Medication complications
    • Metabolic imbalance

SAGE test image

An estimated 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, and those numbers are expected to almost triple by 2050. “Hopefully, this test will help change those situations,” says Dr. Scharre. “We are finding better treatments, and we know that patients do much better if they start the treatments sooner than later.”

You can download a copy of the SAGE test from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center website.

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Diane Atwood

About Diane Atwood

For more than 20 years, Diane Atwood was the health reporter on News Center 6. She's now a regular guest on the Morning Report. Before she became a health reporter, Diane was a radiation therapist/dosimetrist at Maine Medical Center. In 2000, she left the world of reporting to manage marketing and public relations for Mercy Hospital. In 2011, she decided to pursue a longtime dream of being a freelance writer and launched her award-winning blog Catching Health with Diane Atwood.