The Mini Mental Status Exam is only a first step
That’s because other medical conditions, medication side effects, or psychiatric issues could be causing dementia-like symptoms.
So, the first step is to have their primary doctor do a full physical and mental exam. To look for possible cognitive issues, many doctors use a common screening test called the Mini Mental Status Exam (MMSE).
The Mini Mental Status Exam is a useful tool because it’s quick, simple, and can be used by any doctor without special training. But it has significant limitations and cannot be used alone to make a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia.
We explain what the MMSE doesn’t test for and why a too-quick diagnosis could be bad for your older adult’s health.
The MMSE doesn’t catch all dementia symptoms
Someone who knows what day it is, what a certain object is, or who can remember a short list of random things could do well on the test.
But that doesn’t mean they don’t have dementia. Some types, like Lewy body dementia, affect judgement far more than memory.
Some dementia symptoms the MMSE would miss include:
- Freely giving out bank account information to strangers
- Suddenly spending money like crazy when they’re always been frugal
- Making crazy investment decisions when they’ve always been conservative investors
MMSE results don’t give enough information for an accurate diagnosis
Because of this, they might not know about the recommended testing and could jump to conclusions based solely on MMSE results.
As a caregiver, it’s important to know that it’s simply not possible to get an accurate dementia diagnosis in just one office visit.
Jumping to conclusions could cause your older adult to get the wrong treatment, which could be harmful to their health.
- Their dementia-like symptoms could be caused by a treatable medical condition like heart disease, vitamin deficiency, or kidney failure.
- Their symptoms could be caused by a medication side effect or drug interaction.
- They could have signs of depression or another psychiatric issue.
Even if your older adult does have a form of dementia, how would the doctor know whether they have vascular dementia or Alzheimer’s or another type? Different types of dementia can require different treatment.
Recommended for you:
- How Is Dementia Diagnosed? A Geriatric Doctor Explains
- Testing for Dementia: The Mini Mental Status Exam
- 7 Treatable Health Conditions with Symptoms Similar to Dementia
By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: Changing Habits