Are you concerned about a parent or other relative’s mental slippage? Researchers led by a team from Emory University developed a brief, but surprisingly reliable, screening test for mild cognitive impairment. The test can be completed within minutes.
There are two components to the test: the Mini-Cog, or MC, and the Functional Activities Questionnaire, or FAQ. The MC portion is administered to the subject, but the FAQ is completed by a family member or friend who is familiar with the subject’s activities and capabilities.
The MC consists of three tasks. The first is to respond accurately and repeat a list of three unrelated objects, such as a tree, a chair, and a paperclip. If the subject cannot learn the list, a physician should be consulted immediately.
The second task is to draw a clock face. Inability to draw a clock face with the numbers and hands in the right places may indicate cognitive impairment.
The third task is to recall the three objects from the first task. If the subject cannot recall the three objects, this may indicate cognitive impairment.
Some subjects may be offended if they perceive that they are being “tested.” With creativity, the MC tests may be applied without the subject’s being aware that they are being tested. For example, ask the subject to remember three items that need to be picked up at the store – “Mom, I need Cheerios, toothpaste and bacon, but I don’t have anything to write with. Could you remind me?” Instead of asking the subject to draw a clock, reset a clock slow or fast and ask the subject how far off it is and to set it to the correct time.
The other part of the MC-FAQ is a battery of ten questions to be answered by a person who knows the subject well. Each question has five possible responses – not applicable, normal, has difficulty, needs help and dependent. If several activities are marked ‘needs help’ or ‘dependent’ the person should undergo professional evaluation.
These tests are not definitive. Only a comprehensive professional medical evaluation can diagnose or rule out true cognitive impairment. MC-FAQ gives family members some guidance as to whether there are signs of memory and cognitive impairment needing further evaluation.
John B. Payne, Attorney
Garrison LawHouse, PC
Dearborn, Michigan 313.563.4900
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 800.220.7200
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