SAGE test promotes earlier diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and dementia

Scharre_Image_RTFEarly detection of symptoms is key to successful treatment of Alzheimer's disease. Unfortunately, patients with Alzheimer's disease often wait three to four years after their symptoms first appear to seek treatment.

To address this challenge, Douglas Scharre, MD, director of the Memory Disorders Research Center, designed and developed the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE) – a cognitive assessment instrument designed for screening individuals in a practical way to detect mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or early dementia from any cause.

"I developed the test because I was seeing too many individuals with cognitive impairment that were being identified so late in their clinical course that management options were less effective," Dr. Scharre says. "We needed practical, inexpensive, validated, screening tools to assess cognition and help identify MCI and early dementia. And we needed to start the conversation regarding cognitive changes much earlier with their primary care physicians."

Multiple modifications over five years of clinical testing resulted in the current validated SAGE test, which is now used worldwide. International partnerships are ongoing with researchers who are translating and validating the translated version in their language.

"SAGE gives individuals, caregivers and physicians the early indication they need to prepare for, and perhaps even prevent, a life-changing decline in brain function," explains Scharre. "If we identify cognitive impairment at an early phase, this may lead to earlier treatments for their dementia."

Benefits from earlier detection and treatment include: increased supervision of individuals so they can more adequately perform their activities of daily living. This may reduce potential poor judgment with finances, driving, medication use and symptom reporting, leading to improvements in treatment compliance rates of their other chronic medical conditions, a reduction in medication errors, and a decrease in hospital admissions or emergency room visits.

"SAGE may also improve the quality of life of patients and caregivers by reducing the burden and chronic stress effects on caregivers and reducing the financial burden on patients, families and the health care system," Dr. Scharre adds.