The Mini Mental Status Exam (MMSE) and the Saint Louis University Mental Status Examination (SLUMS) are excellent screening tools for patients with a likely diagnosis of dementia. However, doctors have been unable to accurately identify those patients who are at risk of cognitive decline in the near future. Apparently, that has just changed thanks to researchers at the San Francisco VA Medical Center who have developed a simple bed side test with an amazing 88% accuracy.

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The test, developed in the study by the researchers, is a 14-point index combining medical history, cognitive testing, and physical examination. It requires no special equipment and can be given in a clinical setting such as a doctor’s office or at a patient’s bedside.

The new index is the “bedside” version of a longer, more technically comprehensive “best” test, also developed during the study, that is 88 percent accurate.

These are the first tools to accurately predict dementia, according to lead author Deborah E. Barnes, PhD, a mental health researcher at SFVAMC. Barnes described the tests in a presentation at the 2007 International Conference on Prevention of Dementia, in Washington, DC, sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Association.
As measured by the “bedside” index, the risk factors for developing dementia are an age of 70 or older, poor scores on two simple cognitive tests, slow physical functioning on everyday tasks such as buttoning a shirt or walking 15 feet, a history of coronary artery bypass surgery, a body mass index of less than 18, and current non-consumption of alcohol.

To develop the tests, the study authors tracked a broad range of physical, mental, demographic and other variables for six years among 3,375 participants in the Cardiovascular Health Cognition Study, a national prospective study sponsored by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

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