Before we get to the questionnaire . . .
Background Information on MCI
Nearly all of us seniors have more and more moments of forgetfulness. Some laugh and say, "Another senior moment!" Others say, "Jeez, I'm headed for Alzheimer's!" I make both comments.
There's a territory between "senior moments" and real Alzheimer's: mild cognitive impairment. People with MCI are more forgetful than is normal for their age, but they don't show other problems typically associated with dementia.
About one in five seniors has some type of MCI. In a 2011 study of nearly 1,300 women 85 and older, 23 percent were diagnosed with MCI. Studies show that 7-15 percent of those with MCI progress to Alzheimer's disease each year, compared to only 1-2 percent for the general senior population.
Family doctors usually don't make time to screen for MCI during typical 15-30 minute office visits, so dementia often goes undiagnosed until it's well advanced.
The Alzheimer's Questionnaire (AQ)
The AQ -- developed at the Banner Sun City Health Research Institute in Sun City, Arizona -- is a brief, easily administered test with 21 yes/no questions that assess memory, orientation, functional ability, visuospatial ability, and language.
While validating the AQ, researchers discovered that four of the questions proved to be particularly strong indicators of MCI:
- repeating questions and statements (#3)
- having trouble knowing the date or time (#7)
- having difficulties managing their finances (#11)
- having a decreased sense of direction (#18)
- Does your loved one have memory loss?
- If so, is his or her memory worse than a few years ago?
- Does the person repeat questions or stories or statements in the same day?
- Have you had to take over tracking events or appointments, or does the person forget appointments?
- Does he or she misplace items more than once a month?
- Does the person suspect others of hiding or stealing items when he or she cannot find them?
- Does your loved one frequently have trouble knowing the day, date, month, year, and time, or check the date more than once a day?
- Does the person become disoriented in unfamiliar places?
- Does the person become more confused when not at home or when traveling?
- Excluding physical limitations, does the person have trouble handling money, such as when calculating tips or change?
- Does the person have trouble paying bills or doing finances?
- Does your loved one have trouble remembering to take medicines or keep track of medications taken?
- Is the person having difficulty driving, or are you concerned about his or her driving?
- Is the person having trouble using appliances such as the stove, phone, remote control, microwave?
- Excluding physical limitations, is the person having difficulty completing home repair or housekeeping tasks?
- Excluding physical limitations, has the person given up or cut down on hobbies such as golf, dancing, exercising, or crafts?
- Is the person getting lost in familiar surroundings, such as his or her own neighborhood?
- Is his or her sense of direction failing?
- Does he or she have trouble finding words other than names?
- Does the person confuse names of family members or friends?
- Does he or she have trouble recognizing familiar people?
- 0-4: No cause for concern
- 5-14: Memory loss may be an early warning of Alzheimer's
- 15+: Alzheimer's may already have developed