Testing for Dementia

Recently my eighty-seven-year-old father has shown increasing signs of dementia. Yesterday he had his quarterly visit to his primary care physician. Several of us in the family noticed Dad’s growing confusion, so I took the opportunity to see if we should ask for a referral to a local geriatric center for testing.

The doctor surprised me by offering a 30-question test they do right in his office. He noted with a smile that the test is free and could be done during this visit. He asked Dad several questions that he got correct. The doctor then said he would send in his assistant to go through the exam.

The Test

The questions started out fairly routine including what year is this, what date is this, what day of the week, etc. Other questions included what building were we in, what city, what state, and what is your birthdate, name and address.

Then the questions became increasingly difficult. He was asked to spell the word “world” and then spell it backwards. Dad thought for a moment, then said “no.” He flat out refused to try. Then he was asked to start at 100 and count backwards by 7 ( i.e. 93, 86, etc.). Again, he thought about it, but refused. The assistant asked him a few more questions that he answered, then went back to the number question. He thought for a moment, then answered correctly. When she asked for the next number back he was one digit off. The assistant accepted that with a comment of “That’s pretty close.”

The bottom line

Before the doctor left the room, he was satisfied with Dads initial answers. He said that because of Dad’s recent move and also several changes in medication over the last two months, one just two weeks ago, that he could have a problem with adjusting to those two situations. The answers to the initial questions seemed to indicate that he does not have dementia. He just needs to continue to adjust to his drugs and environment.

That is good news for us. We had to go through Mom’s ten years of increasing dementia prior to her death, and we were hoping that Dad’s fate would not be the same. It appears that he came through the test in good stead. The doctor will assess the test, but it sounds like he is okay. For that we are thankful.

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