Several online tests can help families come closer to knowing whether a loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. To be clear, these tests are not designed to give a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. A diagnosis requires several medical experts, as well as expensive medical technology and potentially unpleasant procedures such as brain scans and spinal fluid extractions. Recent studies, in fact, have shown that dementia is often misclassified when using only the following tests.
Instead, online tests for Alzheimer’s are designed and intended to give a family enough information to know whether they should pursue a professional medical opinion.
A certain degree of forgetfulness is common to most aging individuals. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is a condition which is more severe than normal memory decline associated with aging, but not so severe as Alzheimer’s. Online tests for dementia/Alzheimer’s should be adequate to help families distinguish between these conditions.
Before discussing the various options available to self-administer an Alzheimer’s test on the Internet, some words of caution are advised.
The following tests have been selected specifically to allow non-professionals to administer and interpret the results of the test. Some of these may be more complex for the administrator than others, but none are so complicated that they cannot be managed by a normal adult English speaker.
The Modified CDR Test
The Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) test was originally designed to be administered by a trained professional. However, the level of expertise required to administer the test has been modified so that a family member or someone familiar with the individual can answer 6 questions about the person’s mental acuity and receive an immediate result. Taking the modified CDR Test only takes about 3 minutes and requires no personal information. Obviously, this does not provide a definitive diagnosis, but it may provide sufficient information for the family to determine if additional steps are necessary. Of the tests described here, this is fastest and easiest for family members to undertake.
The SAGE Test
SAGE stands for Self-Administered Geocognitive Examination, and while it is not exactly self-administered, it does not require a doctor. This the gold standard of Alzheimer’s tests on the Internet, developed by the Department of Neurology at Ohio State University. Again, it will not result in a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, but is found to be 80-percent effective at identifying persons with memory challenges. The test itself is meant to be downloaded, printed and self-administered. The results are meant to be interpreted by a medical professional, but the scoring instructions are also available online and they are not especially challenging. In short, a family member can give this test to their loved one and accurately understand the results of the test without a medical professional. What happens after the test, should the test taker be found to have memory challenges, does require a medical professional. The SAGE test takes approximately 10-20 minutes to complete, and the scoring process takes only 5-10 minutes.
The Mini-Cog differs slightly from the SAGE Test in that a test administrator is required and plays an active role. However, only about five minutes are required to administer the test and only one minute is needed to score the test and interpret results. The test administration role is not challenging, and any healthy adult can serve in that role, no medical training required. The results do not diagnose dementia but permit the administrator to know if further action is necessary. Download the test at the link below. It is important that only the administrator view this document, not the test taker.
Neurotrack is different because it does not measure mental acuity compared to the greater population. Instead, it takes a snapshot of one’s mental acuity to allow for tracking progression over time. Most relevantly, one can see the decline over time if they are suffering from MCI, Alzheimer’s or other dementia. Also, instead of written challenges the system assesses acuity through eye motion tracked through the computer’s webcam. Some prefer this more passive approach and others have difficulty accepting the test as valid. In either case, Neurotrack may be best used in combination with one of the other tests described above. At the time of writing, this test was free but an email address was required.
The Clock Test
Included as a portion of the SAGE and Mimi-Cog evaluations above, the clock test can stand alone and be evaluated by any loved one, rather than a medical professional, because it’s so simple. A person suspected of possible dementia is asked to draw an analog clock, the kind with an hour hand and minute hand. Sometimes, the circle is provided. The person being tested is usually asked to draw the numbers and hands so the clock shows a specific time (most commonly 10 minutes after 11).
Scoring can be elaborate, with points for every number correct, the two hands, and the accuracy of the time. Studies have shown, however, that simple scoring (pass or fail) is best. The Alzheimer’s Association recommends simple scoring, saying that a normal clock indicates an absence of dementia and an abnormal clock suggests further testing is necessary.
Aside from online tests, it is worth mentioning both blood tests and genetic tests. Currently, a definitive blood test does not exist for the US market. Genetic testing does exist but does not provide a definitive answer as to whether someone has Alzheimer’s or dementia. Instead, genetic tests are helpful in telling individuals if they have a propensity to develop dementia based on their genetic makeup. A medical evaluation from a doctor (or more likely several doctors) is currently the only way for an individual to receive an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis. Read more about blood tests, genetic tests and the process of receiving a medical diagnosis.