Diagnosing the fading memory

In honor of National Memory Screening Day I wanted to mention an exciting new development in the area of dementia screening.

It just so happens that Georgia Tech is down the street from me, and they have created a new testing tool called the ClockMe system that can test for dementia, and can potentially be used at home. The new system is based upon the more traditional “draw a clock at a specific time” test that is normally done with pen and paper. The new test is done with a stylus on a tablet or computer screen, allowing the results to be sent to a doctor who can study them. The doctor can even replay the actual drawing session, to see how long the patient took to draw the clock and the steps they took to complete it.

I wrote before about my mom taking the clock test when she was sick this summer. If Dad ever took the test, I never knew about it. I was surprised at how telling the simple test is when it comes to diagnosing the level of cognitive function in a person.

As I’ve also mentioned before, Dad hated going to the doctor, as a lot people do. If this test can be developed so that it could be done at home, perhaps by a home health care agency or a private nurse, I believe that would encourage more people to take the test. And as baby boomers, who are more comfortable with technology, age and have to grapple with declining cognitive function, they could whip out their tablet computer and take the test on their own, and submit it to their doctor for further investigation.

Of course, there will be a segment of the population that chooses to be in denial or simply do not want to know the truth, and no test, regardless of its ease of use, will convince them to get screened. But I hope this new technology can aid in an earlier diagnosis of dementia, as time becomes so precious once that diagnosis is made.

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