Question-and-answer tests can help tell if someone is developing Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia. When given at home, these tests are best for deciding whether to seek a professional diagnosis. If your loved one seems more forgetful, taking a test can tell you whether or not to make an appointment with your doctor. In a doctor’s office, tests aid medical professionals study and diagnose your loved one.
Formal tests have the added advantage of not only saying whether someone has dementia but also help identify the specific type and the stage of dementia. This information can be crucial for treatment because while there is no cure for dementia, symptoms like forgetfulness can be improved and your loved one’s quality of life can be boosted.
Several online tests can help families come closer to knowing whether a loved one suffers from Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia. These tests are not designed to give a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. A diagnosis requires several medical experts, as well as expensive technology and potentially unpleasant procedures such as brain scans and spinal fluid extractions. Recent studies have shown that dementia is often misclassified when using only the following tests.
A certain degree of forgetfulness is common to most aging individuals. Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is a condition that 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 from the Internet, some caution is advised.
1. No online test can definitively tell if your loved one has Alzheimer’s. Do not believe any website saying otherwise.
2. Many free tests are available online, produced by universities, nonprofits, and reputable medical institutions. It is strongly recommended that one use the following links to find one of these tests. Do not pay for an Alzheimer’s test advertised online; more than likely, these paid tests are not valid and can be scams.
3. Some online tests are simply advertisements for brain-training products masked as tests. They still may be valid, but users should be aware that the test provider is trying to sell a product or service.
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. To be clear, this test questions caregivers not individuals with symptoms.
Taking the modified CDR Test only takes about 3 minutes and requires no personal information. This does not provide a definitive diagnosis, but it helps determine if additional steps are necessary. Of the tests described here, this is the fastest and easiest for family members to complete.
SAGE stands for Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination. While it is not exactly self-administered, it does not require a doctor. This is the gold standard of Alzheimer’s tests on the Internet, developed by the Department of Neurology at Ohio State University. It will not result in a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s but is found to be 95 percent effective at identifying persons with memory challenges. The test needs to be downloaded, printed, and taken either alone or with the help of a loved one. The results are best interpreted by a medical professional, but the scoring instructions are also available online and they are not especially challenging. A family member can give this test to their loved one and accurately understand the results without a medical professional. The SAGE takes approximately 10 to 20 minutes to complete with the scoring process taking an additional 5 to 10 minutes.
The Mini-Cog differs slightly from the SAGE Test because a test administrator is required and plays an active role. This test only takes about five minutes to administer and only one minute to score and interpret the results. The test administration role is not challenging, and any healthy adult can serve in that role. This means that zero medical training is required. Instead of a series of questions, the test requires the subject to listen to three unrelated words, draw a clock, and then repeat the words. The results do not diagnose dementia but signal to the administrator if further action is necessary with a medical professional. For this test, only the administrator views the examination materials, not the test taker.
This test is included as a portion of the SAGE and Mini-Cog evaluations which are listed above. The clock test can stand alone and be evaluated at home rather than by a medical professional because it’s so simple. If you suspect that your loved one possibly has dementia ask them to draw an analog clock, the kind with an hour hand and a minute hand. Sometimes, the circle is provided to the test taker. 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. There are points for every number correct, the two hands, and the accuracy of the time. In contrast, the Alzheimer’s Association recommends simple scoring. They say saying that a normal clock indicates an absence of dementia and an abnormal clock suggests further testing is necessary and following up with a medical professional.
The Mini-Mental State Exam was originally meant to be administered by medical professionals, it is also possible for a loved one to administer the MMSE at-home and interpret the results. Knowing an approximate MMSE score is valuable to family members even if the score is not one hundred percent accurate. Read more about taking the MMSE at home.
This test is not very practical, but it’s an interesting link that scientists have found. The way to do this test is for the person being tested to plug one nostril and have an open jar of peanut butter held about 11 inches away from them. The peanut butter is then slowly brought closer, in about ½ inch increments, until it can be smelled. Then the test is repeated on the opposite nostril. The science behind this at-home test is that the left half of the frontal lobe is affected by Alzheimer’s causing someone with the disease not to be able to smell with their left nostril as well as their right. The peanut butter, therefore, is closer to the left nostril when the person can smell it. Studies have shown the test produces accurate results, but the loss of smell is common for people as they age, and one nostril can be more plugged than the other for reasons having nothing to do with dementia. It is not advised by the medical community that people do the peanut butter test at home and it probably won’t be part of a professional diagnosis.
The Montreal Cognitive Assessment is a 30-question exam that takes about 10 minutes. The MoCA includes the Clock Drawing Test and also has questions and small tasks. This assesses your loved ones’ understanding of time, place, short-term memory, and ability to concentrate. MoCA is similar to the Mini-Mental State Exam but about 30 years newer. Studies have shown MoCA is more reliable for identifying dementia and better at identifying early-stage dementia or mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The MoCA is also better at indicating dementia in people with Parkinson’s disease. The test is meant to be administered and scored only by a doctor and is harder to find online than the MMSE.
The Mini-Mental State Exam is the most common tool for assessing the severity of a person’s Alzheimer’s. The test has 30 questions and takes about 10 minutes to finish. Questions cover orientation (knowing the time and place), short-term memory, attention and ability to solve problems, language (identifying common objects by name), and comprehension and motor skills. The test-taker is asked to answer questions and also draw slightly complicated shapes. The MMSE is more than 40 years old and is widely used by doctors and clinicians studying dementia, but it is not as reliable as other tests on this page for determining whether someone has dementia. It is also not reliable for identifying mild cognitive impairment or someone in the very early stages of Alzheimer’s.
While originally designed to be administered by medical professionals, family members can now administer the MMSE using their phone or laptop and receive accurate scoring results. Start here.
The St. Louis University Mental Status Examination consists of 11 questions and is graded with a maximum of 30 points. It was developed as an alternative to the more common Mini-Mental State Exam. The test is short, normally taking about eight minutes. This exam is more complex than the MMSE and better at identifying mild cognitive impairment or dementia in its earliest stages. Like other tests above, the SLUMS includes the Clock Drawing Test. It also asses your loved one via simple math, memory, and orientation questions. The last part of this test is a short story, which the test taker needs to listen to before answering simple questions like “What was the character’s name?” The test is available online but is intended to be administered and scored by a health professional, so this is not recommended to try it at home.
|Types of Online, At-Home and Clinical Dementia & Alzheimer’s Tests (Updated Dec. 2022)
|Take at home or in doctor’s office?
|Number of questions
|Studies called the CDR a reliable test, especially useful for assessing change over time.
|Questions are simple and meant to be answered by a friend or loved one familiar with the test subject.
|The Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam (SAGE)
|95% effective at identifying dementia, according to studies.
|The best test a person can take at home to identify possible dementia.
|About 75% effective at identifying dementia, according to studies.
|Extremely basic and easy-to-administer, with a memory element to the test in addition to the Clock Drawing Test.
|The Clock Drawing Test
|The dementia community, including the Alzheimer’s Association, widely agrees that the CDT is a useful step toward diagnosis.
|The simplest of any of the dementia tests. The visual impact of a poorly drawn clock can be powerful for loved ones.
|The Mini-Mental State Exam (MMSE)
|Doctor’s office or home
|The MMSE is widely used, but studies show it is better for ruling out dementia than telling someone whether they have it. Also used as an input in a dementia life expectancy calculator.
|Not sensitive to mild cognitive impairment. The test can be found online and taken at home, but it is not advised.
|The Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA)
|The MoCA is a newer test than the MMSE and is found better at identifying dementia (about 94 percent accurate).
|More sensitive to mild cognitive impairment than the MMSE.
|The St. Louis University Mental Status Examination (SLUMS)
|SLUMS has shown sensitivity to mild cognitive impairment, like the MoCA, but has not been studied as much as other tests on this list to determine reliability.
|Shorter than other tests taken in doctors’ offices. Not as widespread and clinical results prove its reliability.
Aside from online tests, it is worth mentioning blood, tissue, and genetic tests. Currently, there is only one test that is FDA approved that tests either blood or tissue samples to diagnose Alzheimer’s. Lumipulse had been on the market in the United States since May 2022. This test uses a cerebral spinal fluid test to the difference between two proteins to see if their levels are higher or lower than normal. Lumipulse is a test that acts as an early detector for Alzheimer’s disease. It is recommended for patients 55 and over to determine via an inexpensive and non-invasive way if they have the benchmarkers for Alzheimer’s. This test measures the beta-amyloid proteins,1-40 and 1-42 that appear in one’s system. Beta amyloids are proteins that occur naturally in healthy brains but form clumps between the brain cells of people with Alzheimer’s disease. This causes cellular death that leads to Alzheimer’s symptoms.
To date, there are no blood tests that are FDA approved to diagnose Alzheimer’s. There are two that have been granted breakthrough status. That means medicines and devices that are successful in their clinical trials are fast-tracked for quicker approval. The first is Diadem’s AlzoSure Predict. It was granted FDA breakthrough device status in early 2022. This blood test is different because it is a preventative diagnostic. It can predict if a patient with little to no symptoms (of cognitive impairment) will develop Alzheimer’s disease in the next 6 years. This is done by testing biomarkers. A protein called p53 is checked along with how it reacts to an antibody and binds to it. High levels of p53 have been shown through lots of studies to be a sign of the disease before the appearance of its symptoms. The second test is Simoa. It was also granted FDA breakthrough device status in late 2021 and tests for proteins in the blood. This test follows the same idea as other blood tests by identifying biomarkers in the blood. The advantage is that these results can usually only be seen via expensive or difficult exams like PET brain scans, MRIs, and spinal taps. Simoa detects a protein called ptau181 which has been linked to brain changes caused by dementia. In studies, the Simoa test was found to be as good at predicting the development of dementia as PET scans and a spinal tap, without the cost, pain, or radioactivity associated with those tests. By testing for biomarkers, the test has the ability to detect future dementia-caused brain changes in both the short term (within 15 months) and the long term (four-plus years). Right now, this technology is predominantly used by researchers to identify people who are good candidates for clinical trials and not available to most patients.
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.