Why Seniors Worried About Alzheimer’s Should Get Their Memory Tested

“The face of Alzheimer’s is changing,” Jim Taylor, one of the founding board members of Memory Advocate Peers, explains. “It’s no longer the world we lived in 20 years ago when people felt there wasn’t anything you could do. Now there’s much more you can do, and much of it is easily accomplished.”

November is Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. One of the focuses of Alzheimer’s Awareness Month is to encourage seniors to obtain memory screenings if they have concerns about the possibility of experiencing cognitive decline.

Benefits of Memory Screening

Dr. Michelle Papka, director of the Cognitive and Research Center of NJ, says memory screening is available all year round. With that said, she noted that there are many special events in November intended to create a greater awareness of Alzheimer’s disease and memory testing. Dr. Papka indicated that the general public seems to embrace the idea of memory testing enthusiastically. This particularly is the case among seniors and adult children of seniors who have questions and even concerns about memory issues.

“There was such an overwhelming interest in people coming in,” Dr. Papka noted. “Once they knew about it, people really wanted it. They seemed very appreciative for the opportunity to get screening and a bit of one-on-one education about brain health and resources in the community.”

Dr. Jeffrey T. Apter, president of Global Medical Institutes and lead principal investigator for Princeton Medical Institute, calls memory screening in recent times “a great success.” Dr. Apter indicates that he and others in the field look forward to building on this past memory testing success.

“There are many advantages to getting screened,” Apter says. “This helps us get patients in early or identify patients who will be suitable later on for a prevention trial. We’re getting many requests for prevention studies.”

Testing and Dementia Research

Dr. Apter explained the connection between memory screening, clinical trials, and the quest for a cure for Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Dr. Apter indicates, “the first patient to be cured of Alzheimer’s will be someone participating in a clinical trial.” Dr. Apter notes that at this time, there is growing optimism in dementia research over what he calls promising new drugs in what is being called the “mab” category. These include three important medications now being researched and investigated:

  • Lecanemab
  • Gantenerumab
  • Donanemab

“There’s a lot in the pipeline right now,” Dr. Apter explains. “Some of these drugs look like they may get approved and probably will get approved.”

Dr. Apter makes mentions that the ultimate answer for Alzheimer’s is not likely to come in the form of a single so-called blockbuster drug. “It’s probably going to be combination drugs, and people shouldn’t wait until those drugs are available,” Dr. Apter says. “It’s important to get a memory test and get a baseline (a measure of your memory). That’s an important first step.”

Jim Taylor from Memory Advocate Peers does see momentum building around the potential new medications mentioned a moment ago. “As these treatments begin to come before the FDA, many more people who haven’t had a memory evaluation because they thought there wasn’t anything that could be done about it are going to be thinking, ‘You know, if there are treatments out there, maybe I should find out if this concern I’ve had is real or just aging,’ Taylor notes.

Importance of Memory Screening

Jim Taylor indicates that people with a family history of Alzheimer’s are particularly good candidates for memory screening. They are also ideal candidates for participation in clinical trials.

“If folks have Alzheimer’s in their family and they are 65 or older, even though they don’t have any symptoms, they are at increased risk of developing the disease — not only them, but their children and grandchildren,” Taylor explains.

“So, getting diagnosed and getting into a clinical trial is important for their own progeny,” Taylor remarks. “Hopefully, by the time our children reach age 65, we will have drugs that will either mitigate or stop the symptoms or maybe even a cure. So, I think anyone who has Alzheimer’s in their family should be especially wanting to have a free cognitive evaluation.”

What Is an Alzheimer’s Memory Test Like?

A common type of Alzheimer’s memory test administered by a memory specialist takes about 30 minutes. It is undertaken in a private setting.

Following taking a memory test, a person meets one-on-one with a memory specialist who will discuss the results. The session also gives a person who took the test the chance to answer any questions he or she may have about the test and its results. In addition, an individual will receive information about brain health, resources, and dementia prevention.

Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam

Finally, in addition to the professionally administered memory screening, there is also the self-administered gerocognitive exam. The self-administered gerocognitive exam (SAGE) is designed to detect early signs of cognitive, memory, or thinking impairments. SAGE evaluates a person’s thinking abilities and assists physicians in knowing how well an individual’s brain works.

A person may want to take SAGE if he or she is concerned that he or she might have cognitive issues. In addition, a person may wish to have a family member or friend take the test if concerned that someone in his or her life is having memory or thinking problems. The difficulties listed can be early signs of cognitive and brain dysfunction. While dementia or Alzheimer’s disease can lead to these symptoms, many other treatable disorders also may cause these signs.

If the results of SAGE indicate the prospect of memory issues, an individual who took the test should contact his or her primary care physician to obtain a referral to a memory specialist. The sooner a memory or cognitive issue is identified, the better the prospects that a more serious impairment can be delayed or minimized.