Detecting Dementia Early With a Simple Assessment Tool

June 2, 2016

purple ribbonDementia is a neurodegenerative syndrome and it is on the rise world-wide. Detecting it early can mean a better quality of life for those affected and more time planning for the future.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), dementia is caused by a variety of brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, and is associated with memory loss, impaired thinking, changes in behavior, and interference with daily activities. A new case of dementia is diagnosed every four seconds (that is 7.7 million new cases annually!). In 2015, the estimated number of people who live with dementia is 47.5 million and that number is expected to jump by 60 percent to 75.6 million by 2030.

Since early diagnosis can mean better quality of life, more accurate treatment of symptoms and more time to organize personal affairs, a UCF researcher partnered with a physician to develop a new assessment tool that can help diagnose dementia early through a series of 26 questions designed to assess a patient’s mental state. These questions can be asked at home by a caregiver or in a clinical setting. Currently available screening methods are usually performed by healthcare providers and are expensive. They are properly stored as medical records, however, in busy clinical settings such as emergency rooms, a patient’s medical history may not be readily accessible which could lead to a misdiagnosis.

UCF researcher, Varadraj “Raj” Gurupur, Ph.D., and Dr. Richard R. Selvaggi, a physician from Live Oak Medical Center in Commerce, TX have developed this simple-to-use, cost efficient tool. The Dementia and Delirium Analysis Research Tool improves the accuracy of dementia and delirium diagnoses and patient outcomes, reduces health care provider time and the need for expensive testing, and can be used repeatedly to document syndrome progression.

The tool is a questionnaire comprised of 26 questions. The first section asks questions about the demographics of the caretaker or caregiver and the patient (e.g., age, gender, and race). The second section assesses the patient for delirium symptoms (e.g., questions about mood, lethargy, and sleepiness). This section also screens for symptoms of mild dementia through math problems and common knowledge questions such as “Who is the current President of the United States?” and “On which date do we celebrate Christmas?”

To improve the quality of life of dementia patients, their caregivers, and their families, the Delirium and Dementia Analysis Research Tool can be a valuable resource for both healthcare providers and caretakers. To learn more and for a copy of the questionnaire, contact John Miner.