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Early Detection of Dementia

Traditionally, physician’s first line of assessment for determining if an individual may have dementia comes from the results of an assessment called the Mini Mental Status Examination. A recent study suggests a new screening tool appears to work better in identifying mild cognitive problems in the elderly.

Early detection of mild neurocognitive disorders by the screening instrument, called the Saint Louis University Mental Status Examination (SLUMS), offers the opportunity for the clinicians to begin early treatment as it becomes available,” says Syed Tariq, M.D., lead author and associate professor of geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University.

Early Detection of Dementia John Morley, M.D., director of the division of geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University, created the SLUMS to screen more educated patients and to detect early cognitive problems.

“There are potential treatments available and they slow down the progression of the disease,” says Morley, who is a coinvestigator. “The earlier you treat, the better people seem to do. But families go through denial and sometimes miss diagnosing dementia until its symptoms are no longer mild.”

The researchers found the new screening tool developed by SLU detects early cognitive problems missed by the MMSE.

“The Mini Mental Status Examination has limitations, especially with regard to its use in more educated patients and as a screen for mild neurocognitive disorder,” Tariq says.

It takes a clinician about seven minutes to administer the SLUMS, which supplements the Mini Mental Status Examination by asking patients to perform tasks such as doing simple math computations, naming animals, recalling facts and drawing the hands on a clock.

Both screening tools work at detecting dementia, the research found.

“SLUMS has the advantage in that it can help the clinician identify patients with mild neurocognitive disorder on the initial visit compared to MMSE, which requires a follow up screening,” Tariq says.

Saint Louis University researchers used both screening tools to test 705 men who were at least 60 and treated at the Geriatric Research Education Clinical Center, Veterans Administration Hospitals in St. Louis in 2003. They found that while both tools detected dementia, only the SLUMS recognized a group of patients as having mild cognitive problems.

The SLUMS, which is free and currently used at many Veterans Administration hospitals, is available at this link

The researchers cautioned that neither the SLUMS nor the MMSE screening tools substitute for clinical assessment and neuropsychological testing to diagnose cognitive problems and dementia.

Source: Saint Louis University

Early Detection of Dementia

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Early Detection of Dementia. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 19, 2019, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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