With dementia rates rising sharply in Canada and around the world, it’s not surprising that researchers have been focusing on ways to spot the condition earlier. Globally, someone is diagnosed with dementia every three seconds and there are 10 million new cases each year – truly alarming statistics.
At-home tests have become increasingly popular. One of the latest to be developed is a tablet app, which will replace traditional pen-and-paper exams. It uses images rather than memory-based exercises to help spot the disease when it is asymptomatic. Developers of the new test are hoping that it can be introduced in clinics, too, and given routinely to patients, just like blood and blood pressure tests. It doesn’t take specialized training to administer, which helps with affordability.
Some estimates say the test can detect early signs of the disease five to 15 years soon than existing exams. That’s important because it provides health care providers with an opportunity to try and slow the progress of dementia. In later stages, brain neurons are already dead and cannot be saved, causing memory loss, cognitive dysfunction, difficulty in thinking and issues around language and problem-solving. Early detection is key.
Created by a team from the University of Cambridge, The Integrated Cognitive Assessment (ICA) test can detect signs of early-onset dementia. It is expected to become available sometime next year once Health Canada completes its review.
Meanwhile, a joint research team made up of British and Swiss scientists are looking at-home testing that asks people to detect sounds and flashes using a smartphone or laptop. This simple test can help diagnose mild cognitive impairment, which can develop into Alzheimer’s disease in an estimated 30 to 50 percent of people.
With more than 50 million people living with dementia worldwide, the quest for an easy, cost-effective diagnostic test for the condition has become urgent.
Until these more advanced tests become widely available, you may want to take an old-fashioned at-home test. Download the SAGE (self-administered gerocognitive exam) test, which evaluates your thinking abilities, here to establish a benchmark for current cognitive functioning.