Family members and friends may be better judges of early Alzheimer's disease than standard memory tests, a new study reports. The results could help doctors diagnose suspected Alzheimer's at an earlier stage, when treatment may be more effective and families can better prepare for the changes to come.
The study comes from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, where researchers developed a two-minute questionnaire that asked close friends and family members if they have noticed problems with memory or judgment. The survey asked "yes" or "no" questions about whether they have noticed such signs in loved ones as:
- Bad financial choices or other problems in judgment;
- Less interest in hobbies and other favorite activities;
- Repeating questions, stories or statements;
- Trouble learning how to use a tool or appliance, such as a television remote control or a microwave oven;
- Forgetting the month or year;
- Difficulty handling complicated financial affairs, such as balancing a checkbook;
- Difficulty remembering appointments; and
- Consistent problems with thinking and memory.
Survey results were then correlated with so-called biomarkers, like brain changes on brain scans or blood tests results, that are generally regarded as of Alzheimer's. The survey proved more accurate than standard word and memory tests like the mini-mental state exam, which doctors perform in their offices to look for early signs of Alzheimer's.
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