This week I took a few screening tests for dementia. Dementia is not a disease in itself, it is a term that describes a group of symptoms such as a gradual loss of memory, communication skills and the ability to think and reason clearly. The reason I took the tests?I have recently written about donating my brain following my death to help scientists find out how healthy brains and diseased brains function. Hopefully some of my brain tissue will help find the cause of Alzheimer's and help in the development of treatments including drugs that prevent, arrest its progress or even cure the condition.When someone donates their brain scientists want to know some information about your physical, mental and social functioning. This first battery of tests that I did this week provides a base line of information of how my brain is in 2015.As a Registered nurse working in psychiatry and in physical care I had been present when many 'patients' had taken short and longer tests for cognitive function (briefly cognition describes our ability to think, remember, make judgements, problem solve, carry out acts of daily living). What I had not realised was taking the tests can be stressful, even if you know/think you are well!I had answered questions about my physical health...no problem, I had answered questions that were finding out about any sensory or motor impairments...I wear glasses for reading....no problem. The questionnaire to identify any types of depression I passed with flying colors.Then I did the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MOCA)! I had a bit of trouble doing the clock test! I was just so suprised! In this visuospatial/executive test I had to draw a clock putting in the numbers in the correct place. I could do that fine. Then Michele, the research nurse, asked me to draw the hands of the clock at, I think she said, 11 past 10 and suddenly I felt quite confused. I got it right quite quickly but my delay really worried me.To compound my concern later in the MOCA I had to do a test that involves repeatedly subtracting 7 starting from 100. You have to do it 5 times. I knew I would have trouble because unless you work with numbers a lot I find it can take (me) about 15 minutes before the metal math cogs in my brain make math tasks easy. Also I knew from watching patients try doing it it could often be a pretty tortuous challenge! And I did too. I had trouble with that too!All the remaining tests were fine, but when you get to a certain age any memory lapses, or senior moments as we call them, are worrying and stressful.
Published On: January 20, 2015