Ever worry that you're slipping into Alzheimer's? I sure do, whenever I walk into a room and forget why I'm there, or totally space out and forget to do something that had been prominently featured on my to-do list for days.
A new online test is perfect for those of us that worry that our memories are not what they should be. A service called MemTrax will send you a monthly three-minute test that gives you an immediate score and lets you know if you have reason to worry. It's available both as a mobile app and on a website for a small fee, you'll receive a new test every month so if your memory does start to slip you'll have early warning.
I took a sample test that's available for free on the MemTrax website and was relieved to receive a near-perfect score. The test is fast and sort of fun—you're presented a series of photos in quick succession and just click when an image comes along that you've already been shown.
The Memtrax tests were created based on 10 years of research by Dr. Wes Ashford, Chair of the Memory Screening Advisory Board of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America and Clinical Editor of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. "Unlike some memory tests, these test for the memory problems specifically disrupted in Alzheimer's disease. Using pictures, instead of words, seems to be the best way to tap into complex memory."
The tests will be reassuring for most people who take them. "It doesn't matter what your education level is, normal individuals do quite well on these tests," he says. "And if you fail it doesn't mean you have Alzheimer's, it could mean that you have vision problems, or a thyroid deficiency, Parkinson's, or some other issue hurting your performance," he says. "But if you repeatedly score less than 85% or have a reaction time slower than 1 second, it does indicate some kind of problem, and you should be further evaluated by a doctor."
Even though Alzheimer's isn't curable, early detection is hugely beneficial. "There are medications that do help you remember better, and slow the disease ever so slightly," says Ashford. "They'll give you more time to get your affairs in order, they seem to lessen behavioral problems, and seem to delay nursing home placement."
Ashford says that general practice doctors often don't ask older adults about their memories, and may not be receptive if you tell them that you are worried about yours. "Doctors don't always know what to do with that information," he says. "If you're worried, look for an expert like a gerontologist or a neurologist."
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