Saturday, December 08, 2007

Alzheimer's Disease (AD): Dementia Telephone Screening

Tomorrow's Sunday New York Times Magazine is its annual new ideas of the past year issue. Among the many shiny ideas presented is telephone screening for dementia:

Alzheimer’s Telephone Screening
By RON FEEMSTER
The New York Times
Published: December 9, 2007

This year, researchers completed work on a 50-question telephone quiz to help them identify Alzheimer’s patients long before they exhibit typical symptoms. Such a quiz may soon become part of regular medical care.

This new tool measures what the researchers call “cognitive vital signs” like short-term memory loss, which is the most important early sign of Alzheimer’s, and detects declines in everyday abilities like using a telephone, preparing meals or managing finances. The quiz also picks up behavioral warning signs including apathy, irritability and depression.

“If somebody is failing these cognitive tests, they already have the characteristics of the disease,” says Jeffrey Cummings, director of the Alzheimer Disease Center at U.C.L.A., “just in a very early and mild form.” Cummings says the quiz reliably shows when a person crosses the line between normal mental life and the mild cognitive impairment found in early Alzheimer’s, but adds that anyone who fails should get a detailed follow-up exam.

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