Dementia Test (6 Types + Instant Results)

practical psychology logo
Published by:
Practical Psychology

As you age, you might occasionally misplace your keys or start to depend a lot more on that grocery list than usual. Although this is considered normal, a certain level of forgetfulness should be a cause of concern.

Dementia is a cognitive decline affecting memory, thinking, and social abilities, hindering daily life. It's not a singular disease but a syndrome resulting from various causes, with Alzheimer's being prevalent. This condition disrupts brain function, leading to behavioral and memory changes, impacting daily activities.

The concerning level of forgetfulness is often associated with dementia. It is essential to understand what dementia is and how it affects your memory, thinking, and social abilities to differentiate between normal forgetfulness and a much more severe form of memory loss.

What is Dementia?

Understanding dementia is pivotal in recognizing its early signs and ensuring timely intervention. Dementia isn't a specific disease but a term encompassing a range of cognitive impairments affecting memory, thinking, and social abilities.

It's crucial to comprehend that dementia isn't simply a result of aging - it's a complex interplay of various factors impacting brain function.

For many, the journey into dementia starts subtly, with occasional forgetfulness or a slight shift in behavior. However, it can progress into a more noticeable cognitive decline. Early detection plays a critical role in managing symptoms and enhancing the quality of your life.

The following signs and symptoms are useful in the early detection of dementia.

1) Observable Behavioral Changes

Behavioral changes in dementia encompass a range of shifts in actions, emotions, and reactions that differ from your usual patterns. These changes can manifest in various ways:

Agitation and Irritability: Dementia may lead to increased restlessness, quickly getting upset, or displaying aggression, which can result from confusion or frustration due to memory loss or difficulty in communicating needs.

Depression and Anxiety: You might experience persistent sadness, anxiety, or fear. Brain structure and chemical balance changes contribute to these mood alterations.

Social Withdrawal: Some people withdraw from social activities or lose interest in hobbies they previously enjoyed. This withdrawal can be due to memory loss or difficulties in communication.

Sleep Disturbances: Dementia often disrupts sleep patterns, leading to insomnia or increased daytime napping. These disturbances may exacerbate other symptoms and impact overall well-being.

Wandering and Agitation: People with dementia may wander around and get lost, possibly due to disorientation or an attempt to fulfill unmet needs. This behavior poses safety concerns and requires careful supervision.

2) Cognitive Decline Symptoms in Dementia

Cognitive decline in dementia refers to the progressive deterioration of cognitive functions, impacting various mental abilities. Cognitive decline varies in its progression and manifestation depending on the type and stage of the condition.

The following symptoms significantly impact an your independence and ability to perform daily activities, emphasizing the importance of early detection and appropriate support. Here are some key signs:

Memory Loss: One of the most recognizable signs involves significant memory impairment, especially for recent events or learned information. Forgetfulness and repeating questions or stories can be common. You can take our online test to objectively measure this.

Difficulty with Reasoning and Problem-Solving: When you have dementia may struggle with tasks that require planning, organizing, or solving problems. Complex tasks become increasingly challenging.

Language and Communication Issues: Dementia often affects language abilities, leading to difficulties finding the right words, understanding conversations, or following discussions.

Confusion and Disorientation: You may become disoriented in familiar places, lose track of time, or struggle to recognize people or objects, leading to increased confusion and anxiety.

Impaired Judgment and Decision-Making: Dementia can impact your ability to make sound judgments, leading to poor decisions or difficulties in assessing risks in everyday situations.

Reduced Attention Span: You might find it hard to focus, maintain attention, or follow a conversation or storyline, contributing to feelings of frustration or withdrawal.

3) Emotional and Social Changes Symptoms in Dementia

Dementia doesn't solely impact cognitive functions... it also affects emotions and social interactions, leading to various changes such as the following:

Mood Swings: You might experience frequent mood changes, swinging between happiness, sadness, or irritability without apparent cause. These fluctuations can occur rapidly and unpredictably.

Social Withdrawal: People with dementia may gradually withdraw from social activities, hobbies, or interactions they once enjoyed. This withdrawal might stem from difficulties in communication or a sense of frustration with cognitive challenges.

Loss of Empathy or Understanding of Others: Some individuals might struggle to empathize or understand the emotions or perspectives of others. This change can lead to difficulties in relating to family and friends.

Changes in Personality: Dementia can alter your personality, leading to shifts in behavior or demeanor that are markedly different from their usual traits. This change might involve becoming more passive or more aggressive than before.

Increased Anxiety or Agitation: Feelings of restlessness, anxiety, or agitation might become more prevalent as cognitive abilities decline. These emotions can stem from confusion, frustration, or difficulty expressing needs.

Difficulty in Recognizing Emotions: You may find it challenging to recognize their own emotions or those expressed by others. This difficulty can hinder effective communication and social interactions.

Tests For Evaluating Dementia

The diagnostic process involves comprehensive evaluations to assess cognitive functioning and potential causes and neuropsychological assessments.

Such assessments, discussed below, consist of various tests evaluating memory, attention, language, and problem-solving skills, aiding in understanding the nature and extent of cognitive decline.

1) The Mini-Mental-State Examination (MMSE)

The Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) is a widely used screening tool to evaluate cognitive function in individuals suspected of having dementia or other cognitive impairments.

This test assesses various cognitive domains, offering a quick snapshot of your mental status. It consists of questions and tasks that evaluate orientation, memory, attention, language, and visual-spatial skills.

The MMSE typically includes questions about your awareness of time and place, such as asking for the current date or location. It also assesses your ability to recall information, involving the repetition and later recall of words or phrases. Evaluating attention and calculation skills, like serial subtraction, are also included.

In addition, participants are requested to complete straightforward tasks such as following written or verbal commands and replicating a specific drawing to evaluate their motor and visual-spatial skills. Scores on the MMSE test vary between 0 and 30, with higher scores indicating improved cognitive function.

While it's a valuable tool for quickly assessing cognitive abilities, it's not definitive for diagnosing specific types of dementia.

Instead, it helps healthcare professionals gauge the severity of cognitive impairment, track changes over time, and determine the need for further comprehensive evaluations or interventions. Its brevity and simplicity make it a practical initial screening tool in clinical settings.

2) The Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA)

The Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) is a comprehensive screening tool aiming to detect mild cognitive impairment and assess various cognitive abilities more extensively than other tests, like the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE).

This test evaluates memory, attention, language, and visuospatial skills, offering a broader assessment of your cognitive function.

In the MoCA test, you'll encounter various tasks and questions to assess cognitive domains. These tasks include immediate and delayed recall of word lists, drawing specific shapes, and challenges involving verbal fluency and abstract thinking.

Additionally, it examines executive functions through tasks like counting backward and trail-making tasks, testing your ability to plan, organize, and carry out mental processes.

Scoring between 0 and 30, the MoCA provides a detailed evaluation of cognitive function. With higher scores indicating better cognitive abilities, this test is adept at detecting subtle changes that might signal early cognitive decline or mild impairment.

Its extensive range of tasks makes it an invaluable tool for clinicians in diagnosing and monitoring cognitive impairments, ensuring a more comprehensive understanding of your mental health.

 3) The Clock Drawing Test (CDT)

The Clock Drawing Test (CDT) is a cognitive screening tool used to assess various cognitive functions, especially visuospatial abilities and executive functioning. In this test, individuals are asked to draw a clock face showing a specific time, typically ten past eleven.

The Clock Drawing Test is a simple yet effective way to evaluate multiple cognitive domains quickly. It provides valuable insights into your ability to understand and execute a specific visual representation and spatial organization task.

The test assesses how well you can conceptualize and plan the layout of the clock face, place the numbers correctly, and position the clock hands to depict the requested time.

Scoring in the Clock Drawing Test can vary based on different scoring systems. Still, generally, it assesses aspects like the correct placement of numbers, the circular shape of the clock, and the accurate positioning of the clock hands to represent the requested time.

A clock drawing scoring system may consider errors in number placement, misplacement of the hands, or other distortions in the drawing.

While it's not a standalone diagnostic tool, the Clock Drawing Test provides valuable insights into cognitive abilities and aids healthcare professionals in understanding your cognitive strengths and potential impairments.

4) Brain Imaging Techniques (MRI, CT Scans)

Brain imaging techniques are crucial in dementia testing, visualizing the brain's structure, and detecting abnormalities associated with cognitive decline. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computed Tomography (CT) scans are integral to diagnosing and evaluating brain health in dementia tests.

During an MRI, you'll undergo imaging by lying on a table that moves into a machine using magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed brain images. CT scans, using X-rays, will create cross-sectional brain images, unveiling structural changes or abnormalities related to dementia.

These imaging methods provide detailed insights into the brain's condition, aiding in identifying tumors, strokes, or changes in brain tissue associated with dementia. High-resolution MRI scans offer intricate views of brain structures, assessing size, detecting lesions, and diagnosing various dementia types like Alzheimer's or vascular dementia.

Importantly, these non-invasive techniques contribute significantly to early diagnosis in dementia testing, enabling timely interventions and tailored care plans to address specific brain-related conditions.

5) Cerebral Fluid Analysis

Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis is a diagnostic test used in dementia testing to detect specific biomarkers associated with certain types of dementia. This test involves collecting a sample of cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord through a lumbar puncture, commonly known as a spinal tap.

The collected fluid is then analyzed in a laboratory to identify biomarkers indicative of specific dementia-related conditions, such as proteins or other substances.

CSF analysis aids in diagnosing different types of dementia, particularly those with specific biomarkers like Alzheimer's disease. It helps detect abnormal levels of proteins such as beta-amyloid and tau, which are associated with Alzheimer's pathology.

While CSF analysis provides valuable insights into dementia subtypes, it's an invasive procedure and involves some risks, such as headaches or discomfort at the site of the puncture.

Therefore, it's usually performed when other diagnostic methods have not provided conclusive results or when specific types of dementia, like certain variants of Alzheimer's disease or other neurodegenerative conditions, are suspected.

6) Neuropsychological testing

Neuropsychological testing is a comprehensive evaluation of cognitive abilities conducted by specialized professionals, often neuropsychologists, in dementia diagnosis and assessment.

This testing involves a series of tasks and assessments designed to evaluate various cognitive functions, including attention, language, executive function, and memory.

In dementia, neuropsychological testing plays a crucial role in assessing the nature and extent of cognitive decline. These evaluations help understand the specific cognitive impairments you may be experiencing and aid in differential diagnosis among different types of dementia.

For instance, different patterns of cognitive deficits may suggest Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia, frontotemporal dementia, or other neurodegenerative conditions.

Neuropsychological tests provide detailed insights into an individual's cognitive strengths and weaknesses, helping clinicians develop personalized treatment and care plans. These assessments track changes in cognitive abilities over time, serving as a valuable tool in monitoring disease progression and the effectiveness of interventions.

Moreover, they guide appropriate interventions and support strategies tailored to an individual's specific cognitive profile and needs, contributing to improved management and quality of life for those affected by dementia.

The Different Types of Dementia

1) Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder, accounting for the majority of dementia cases.

It's characterized by the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques and tau proteins in the brain, leading to the impairment of cognitive functions, memory loss, and behavioral changes.

Early signs include forgetfulness, difficulty in problem-solving, confusion about time or place, and difficulty completing familiar tasks.

2) Vascular Dementia

Vascular dementia results from reduced blood flow to the brain, often due to strokes, small vessel disease, or other vascular issues. Symptoms vary based on the area of the brain affected but commonly include difficulties in thinking, reasoning, and memory.

Risk factors include high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, and a history of strokes or cardiovascular diseases.

3) Lewy Body Dementia (LBD)

LBD involves abnormal protein deposits called Lewy bodies in the brain, leading to a decline in thinking, reasoning, and movement abilities. It presents with cognitive fluctuations, visual hallucinations, sleep disturbances, and motor symptoms resembling Parkinson's disease.

4) Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)

FTD affects the frontal and temporal lobes, causing changes in behavior, personality, and language abilities. It has subtypes known as behavioral variant FTD (bvFTD), characterized by behavioral change and primary progressive aphasia (PPA) affecting language skills.

An example of behavior stemming from FTD is a lack of interest in what you used to find meaningful, a lack of social etiquette where you were previously able to restrain yourself, and compulsive ritualistic behavior. 

5) Mixed Dementia

Mixed dementia refers to a combination of two or more types, commonly Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. The overlapping symptoms can make diagnosis and management more complex.

Each type of dementia has its unique pathology, symptoms, and progression. Accurate diagnosis is crucial to determine the appropriate treatment and care strategies tailored to the specific type and stage of dementia.

Does Memory Loss Always Result in Dementia?

No, memory loss doesn't always result in dementia. Memory loss is a common concern, especially as individuals age, but occasional forgetfulness doesn't necessarily indicate dementia.

Normal aging can lead to mild forgetfulness or occasional memory lapses, which usually do not significantly interfere with daily life or overall cognitive abilities.

Dementia involves more than just occasional forgetfulness. As mentioned above, memory loss in dementia is often accompanied by difficulties in problem-solving, planning, language, and changes in mood or behavior.

These cognitive changes are more severe and progressive than the typical forgetfulness associated with aging. It's essential to differentiate between regular age-related memory changes and those indicative of a more serious cognitive impairment like dementia.

Reference this article:

Practical Psychology. (2023, November). Dementia Test (6 Types + Instant Results). Retrieved from

About The Author

Photo of author