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Statistics on the Fighting Dementia
website show there are more than 321,600
Australians living with dementia and this
number is expected to increase by one
third to 400,000 in less than 10 years.
Without a medical breakthrough,
the number of people with dementia is
expected to be almost 900,000 by 2050.
However, new research suggests that
early symptoms of the disease could
now be detected early with the help of
a 15‐minute home‐based test, meaning
potential treatments could be started
Medical News Today reports that
researchers from the Ohio State
University Wexner Medical Center, led
by Dr Douglas Scharre of the Division of
Cognitive Neurology at the university,
have developed a new pen‐and‐paper‐
based test, called the Self‐Administered
Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE), which
consists of four interchangeable forms
and takes approximately 15 minutes to
The researchers published their findings in
The Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical
The test determines the cognitive abilities
of each patient by assessing the following
• Orientation (the month, date and year)
• Language (verbal fluency and picture
• Reasoning/computation (abstract and
• Visuospatial (3D construction and clock
• Executive (problem solving) and
Patients can achieve a maximum of
22 points on the test, and missing six or
more points may warrant a follow‐up visit
to a clinician, according to the researchers.
Dr Scharre was reported as saying that in
earlier research it was found that around
80% of individuals will have their mild
cognitive problems detected using this
test, and around 95% of people without
any signs of cognitive impairment will
have normal scores.
To further assess the efficacy and ease
of the SAGE test, the investigators
visited 45 community events and asked
1,047 individuals aged 50 years or older to
complete the test.
From this, the investigators found that
28% of participants showed signs of
Dr Scharre said results from this study
showed the test could be carried out
in almost any setting, such as at home,
and prove useful in terms of early
detection of cognitive impairment.
In addition, he said the test did not
require any time to set up in terms of
administration, and it can easily be used
to simultaneously screen a large number of
Dr Scharre noted, however, that while the
test does not diagnose Alzheimer’s disease
itself, it is a good tool that allows doctors
to determine patients’ initial cognitive
function and to monitor this over time.
Commenting on overall findings of the
test, Dr Scharre said in Medical News Today
that: ‘What we found was that this SAGE
self‐administered test correlated very well
with detailed cognitive testing. If we catch
this cognitive change really early, then we
can start potential treatments much earlier
than without having this test.’
The research offers hope of earlier
detection of the 1,700 new cases of
dementia diagnosed in Australia each
week. That is about one person every
6 minutes. This is expected to grow to
7,400 new cases each week by 2050.
There are also approximately 24,400
people in Australia with Younger Onset
Dementia (a diagnosis of dementia under
the age of 65; including people as young
In Australia, dementia is the single greatest
cause of disability in older Australians
(aged 65 years or older) and the third
leading cause of disability burden overall.
In 2009‐10, the total direct health and
aged care system expenditure on people
with dementia was at least $4.9 billion and
dementia is predicted to become the third
greatest source of health and residential
aged care spending within two decades.
These costs alone will be around 1%
And by the 2060s, spending on dementia
is set to outstrip that of any other health
condition. It is projected to be $83 billion
(in 2006‐07 dollars), and will represent
around 11% of health and residential aged
care sector spending.
Hope for early Alzheimer’s
BY PETER WATERMAN
Alzheimer’s is one of the more common forms of dementia suffered
by many Australians but now there may be a breakthrough in early
detection of the disease.
Annual Gold Questionnaire
Are you ready to be challenged?
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