Forgetting things? Take this test to see if you need to worry about Alzheimer’s

Woman with sticky notes

Source: Pond5

Worried because you’re not young anymore and you’ve started forgetting more things than you used to? Why you left the room? Where you put your glasses? Whether you turned off the iron? A name? An appointment?

Someone told me that as long as you realize you’ve forgotten something, you’re ok. It’s when you don’t even have a clue that you (or you loved ones) should be concerned. So far, so good, but I still can’t help but worry now and again.

I know I’m not alone. An estimated 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and those numbers are expected to almost triple by 2050.

Diagnosing dementia

Several years ago, my mother was showing signs of forgetfulness and confusion. We would find bills that weren’t paid and also began to suspect she wasn’t eating properly. I took her to her primary care doctor who did a fairly straightforward memory test and diagnosed her with mild cognitive impairment.

Over the next year and a half, her symptoms worsened and I made an appointment with the Geriatric Center at Maine Medical Center. They conducted a number of tests and she met with a therapist and an occupational therapist. Family members also met with the therapist. This time, her diagnosis was early Alzheimer’s disease.

If you have serious concerns about a loved one’s memory or your own, it’s best to see your doctor for a thorough evaluation. If it’s Alzheimer’s, treatments are more effective when they’re started early. Another reason to see the doctor is that cognitive or memory issues don’t always mean someone has dementia. Several things can cause dementia and some are reversible.

Reversible causes of dementia

      • Depression
      • Infections
      • Dehydration or malnutrition
      • Alcohol abuse
      • Vitamin deficiency
      • Medication complications
      • Metabolic imbalance


The SAGE test

Scientists at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center developed a written memory test to help doctors better evaluate early symptoms. Called the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination or SAGE test, it takes less than 15 minutes and can be done at home. 

The researchers enlisted 1047 people over the age of 50 to take the SAGE test and identified twenty-eight percent with cognitive impairment. Dr. Douglas Scharre, who heads the Memory Disorders Research Center at Ohio State, helped develop the test. In a press release, he said unfortunately, doctors often don’t recognize subtle cognitive problems during routine office visits.

“Hopefully, this test will help change those situations,” says Dr. Scharre. “We are finding better treatments, and we know that patients do much better if they start the treatments sooner than later.”

Test questions

The SAGE test consists of 22 questions that evaluate the following areas:

  • Orientation (month, date, year)
  • Language
  • Reasoning
  • Visual and spatial awareness
  • Problem solving
  • Memory

Sample questions include:

  • What is today’s date?
  • Do you have more difficulties doing everyday activities due to thinking problems?
  • How are a watch and a ruler similar?
  • Draw a large face of a clock and place in the numbers
  • Have you finished?

The test can be downloaded from the Ohio State University website. An answer sheet is not provided for people to score themselves because there are multiple correct answers to many questions. Instead, directions say to take the completed test to your primary care doctor so he/she can score and interpret the results. Scoring instructions and explanations for physicians are available on the website.

If you miss six or more questions, you may need further testing, but even if you don’t get any wrong, SAGE can provide important baseline information.

“If we catch this cognitive change really early, then we can start potential treatments much earlier than without having this test,” Dr. Scharre said. “We can give them the test periodically and the moment we notice any changes in their cognitive abilities, we can intervene much more rapidly.”

Taking the SAGE

Take the SAGE test

If you’d like to take the SAGE test, you can download a copy from The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center website. 

Remember, it’s important to share the results with your doctor. The physician instructions for scoring and interpreting results can be downloaded from the same link as above.

About Advantage Home Care

Advantage Home Care provides a wide variety of in-home senior services, including non-medical care. We also ensure that our caregivers are trained to assist seniors with varying forms of dementia. We can help guide you from assessment through treatment.

If you would like to learn more about our caregivers and the services we offer, please visit our websitesend us an email or give us a call at 1-888-846-1410 or 207-699-2570.

Our Aging in Place blog is written by Diane Atwood, who also writes the blogs Catching Health with Diane Atwood and mylatestart. If you have any topics you’d like us to cover, please let us know in the comments box below. Thank you!

Categories: Alzheimer's/Dementia and Blog.


  1. […] truth is that the disease always progresses, always gets worse. We often don’t hear about early Alzheimer’s because the symptoms can be so subtle they go unnoticed. As the memory deteriorates and other […]

  2. […] truth is that the disease always progresses, always gets worse. We often don’t hear about early Alzheimer’s because the symptoms can be so subtle they go unnoticed. As the memory deteriorates and other […]

  3. […] Is your outgoing parent now quiet and withdrawn or vice versa? Not interested in what’s going on? Constantly falling asleep? Not able to concentrate or focus? Does he/she seem confused about performing once familiar tasks? Are you hearing the same stories over and over? Our memories aren’t as sharp as they were in youth, but there is a difference between normal memory loss and loss due to dementia. […]

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