A new evaluation tool allows even a layperson to determine if a person has dementia, and the extent of the dementia, within minutes.
The method, designed by a neuroscientist at Florida Atlantic University, allows even a layperson to do the assessment in three to five minutes. Researchers say the results from the quick evaluation are comparable to the “gold standard” dementia tests used by clinicians today.
The new tool, called the “Quick Dementia Rating System” (QDRS), uses an evidence-based methodology to obtain valid and reliable ratings that differentiate individuals with and without dementia.
When dementia is present, the system accurately stages the condition to determine if it is very mild, mild, moderate or severe. QDRS has applications for use in clinical practice, to pre-qualify patients in clinical trials, prevention studies, community surveys, and biomarker research.
QDRS is the brainchild of James E. Galvin, M.D., M.P.H., a neuroscientist and a professor of clinical biomedical science in the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine and a professor in the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing at Florida Atlantic University.
He recently published an article on his findings in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, the journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Galvin has developed a number of dementia screening tools including the AD8, a brief informant interview to translate research findings to community settings that is used worldwide to detect dementia in diverse populations.
“After extensive testing and evaluation of the Quick Dementia Rating System, we have found it to be as effective as the gold standard used today to screen for the five stages of dementia,” said Galvin.
“This new tool gives you a lot of power to see the same results as a full screening in a fraction of the time it takes for a complete screening.”
The QDRS is a 10-item questionnaire that can be completed by a caregiver, friend or family member, and is brief enough to be printed on one page or viewed as a single screenshot, maximizing its clinical utility.
Scores range from zero to 30 with higher scores representing greater cognitive impairment. The questionnaire covers:
- memory and recall;
- decision-making and problem-solving abilities;
- activities outside the home;
- function at home and hobbies;
- toileting and personal hygiene;
- behavior and personality changes;
- language and communication abilities;
- mood; and
- attention and concentration.
The total score is derived by summing up the 10 fields and each area has five possible answers increasing in severity of symptoms. The 10 areas capture the prominent symptoms of mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, and non-Alzheimer’s neurocognitive disorders including Lewy Body Dementia, frontotemporal degeneration, vascular dementia, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and depression.
A total of 267 individuals with various forms of dementia from Alzheimer’s disease to Lewy Body Dementia participated in the study, which included 32 healthy controls. Study participants also included their spouses/significant others, adult children, relatives, friends, and paid caregivers who completed the QDRS.
“Most patients never receive an evaluation by a neurologist, geriatric psychiatrist, or geriatrician skilled in dementia diagnoses and staging. Early detection will be important to enable future interventions at the earliest stages when they are likely to be most effective,” said Galvin.
“The QDRS has the potential to provide a clearer, more accurate staging for those patients who are unable to see these more specialized clinicians and get them the treatment, referrals and community services they so desperately need.”
The Quick Dementia Rating System is copyrighted and permission to use this tool is required. QDRS is available at no cost to clinicians, researchers, and not-for-profit organizations.
Galvin is working to improve clinical detection by combining biomarkers including high density EEG, functional and structural MRI, PET scans and CSF biomarkers to characterize and differentiate Lewy Body Dementia from healthy aging and other neurodegenerative diseases.