Dementia is a loss of cognitive function beyond what is normally associated with ageing. Although generally associated with age, dementia can occur during other stages of adulthood. Early diagnosis is key to coping effectively with the onset of dementia-related illnesses. Memory testing is the primary method of diagnosing dementia. Using just pennies, paper and pencil, you can perform memory testing in your own home to monitor your mental fitness.
One of the easiest tests of cognitive function involves simple arithmetic functions involving sums of money. Practice making change. Count backward from a high number by sevens. Practice your multiplication tables. On a piece of paper, write the time, and then draw a clock with its hands positioned to show what time it is.
For this exercise, write some category names on flashcards or pieces of paper and then draw them at random from a hat or a facedown pile. For each category, time yourself as you name all the objects you can that might fit into that category. For example, if a drawn card has the word "cars" on it, write down the names of as many kinds of cars as you can think of in one minute. An inability to name more than a few items could be a sign of decreased mental function.
An easy test for short-term recall is to have a companion recite random names or nouns to you. You want to repeat the list back to the speaker. If possible, try to recite the list backward. Start with three items, then move to lists of four, five or six items. Play a memory game using flashcards with paired images placed face down on a table. See how many matched sets you can find in a short period of time while turning the cards over two at a time. If you find a match, you keep the cards; if not, turn them face down in their same location.
Online Memory Screening
Using a search engine, search for a memory screening service. Some services offer cognitive testing for a nominal fee. Print a copy of your results and take them to your family physician if you have concerns.
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