Face Your Fear: Take an Alzheimer’s Self-TestPosted on April 11, 2014 by ElderCare Resources in Alzheimers Care, Blog, Caregiver Education, Dementia Care, Education, Independent Living, Memory Loss
By Robin Dessel, Special to Everyday Health
Shakespeare’s Hamlet grappled with the existential dilemma “To be or not to be, that is the question.” In our day, we grapple with another existential question…”to know or not to know” when it comes to risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia.
The Hebrew Home at Riverdale, in New York, where I am Alzheimer’s Educator, recently completed a national survey of 1,000 adults, ranging in age from 18 to 80-plus, in which we asked about forgetfulness, memory loss and concern over Alzheimer’s. The survey found significant reporting of memory loss, significant impact on daily living, significant worry about Alzheimer’s, and less than significant action in seeking help.
For many of us, losing one’s memory is still associated with losing one’s mind. Alzheimer’s disease has joined the ranks of cancer in the category of most dreaded diseases. For baby boomers, products of the technology age, the notion of losing brain ability and slowly shutting down is literally and figuratively unfathomable.
An (Almost) DIY Alzheimer’s Test
Now, there’s a simple paper-and-pencil test you can take at home that will help you and your doctor assess your Alzheimer’s risk. Called the SAGE test, it’s the same one doctors use in their offices. (See a sample question, above.)
So, what to do…take the risk and take the test, or put it out of your mind and not think about it because you don’t want to know if you’re at risk for Alzheimer’s?
It is important to note that the test does not provide diagnostic confirmation of the presence or absence of Alzheimer’s. As I see it, it is an easily-applied gauge of brain function indicators like memory, spatial relations and “executive” skills (planning, time management and the like). Most importantly, test results must be scored by a professional — an astute move on the part of its authors, as it compels test-takers to seek professional consultation and not try to diagnose themselves.
Get Your ‘Gear’ in Order
I have never been one to visit a fortune-teller or to have my palm read, as living in real time provides me with plentiful pleasures and pains. However, after some soul searching, I did take the test.As an Alzheimer’s educator for the past 25 years, I more than appreciate the desire to look the other way when facing Alzheimer’s disease, and memory and identity loss. As well, I appreciate the fear factor in facing it straight on. I also know that symptoms of memory loss may be reversible, and treatment measures taken to restore brain health, once one knows what the forgetfulness and memory loss mean.
Knowing your Alzheimer’s risk is akin to checking the daily weather report. We look at a weather app, see it on TV, or just ask Siri. We are told of shifting weather patterns, storm fronts, snow events and the like.
Alzheimer’s forecasts, like weather forecasts, have a place in our lives. They are considerations in making plans and making choices. However, we do not abandon plans or succumb to fear when the forecast is unfavorable. In the words of my brother, there is no bad weather…only bad gear. In other words, we often make a choice to find out the truth and persevere.
In truth, we have cause to worry about Alzheimer’s. However, there is cause to worry about a host of other health and life challenges too.
My parting thought on the matter… all is not lost and all is not Alzheimer’s.
Robin Dessel is Alzheimer’s Educator at the Hebrew Home at Riverdale, NY.