Home Screening Tests for Alzheimer’s

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: January 2023

With how important early detection is, some researchers have developed home screening tests for Alzheimer’s. There are positives and negatives to these tests. But they may be helpful in removing barriers to early detection. And they can provide a consistent at-home measure for people who have difficulty accessing other tests.1-3

These tests are brief. They cover a range of functions. You can take them on your own (self-administer). And they give objective results.1-3

What is a screening test?

Screening tests are done to detect potential disorders or diseases in people. When performed without the oversight of a doctor, they are called “home screening tests.” The goal of these tests is to detect changes early. In some cases, early detection can provide time for:4

  • Lifestyle changes
  • Disease monitoring
  • Treatment

Screening tests are not diagnostic. That is, they do not indicate a specific diagnosis. Rather, doctors use them to identify people who should undergo further testing.4

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Currently, the main home screening test is the Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE). It can be self-administered, or it can be given by a healthcare professional. SAGE tracks cognitive (thinking) ability. It contains questions that evaluate memory, reasoning, recall of names or specific objects, and more.2,3

Are home screening tests as effective as other diagnostic tools?

The short answer is no. Home screening tests are not as effective as other diagnostic tools for Alzheimer’s. However, this does not mean they are not helpful. Assuming you take the SAGE test more than once, the test will show where your scores get worse. This gives your doctor an objective picture of which areas are declining and how your cognition is changing.1

SAGE has also been shown to detect the shift from mild cognitive impairment to active dementia or Alzheimer’s 6 months sooner than other screening tests. This is important because early detection of Alzheimer’s is crucial. Early detection allows you and your care team to prepare emotionally and financially. It gives you time to talk to your friends and family. And you and your doctor will have more time to form a treatment plan. Some drugs also work best in the early stages of Alzheimer’s.1

SAGE, being self-administered, addresses a critical access need for Alzheimer’s screening tests. It is short (only 10 minutes) and available online. This means that someone can monitor their symptoms over the course of time without the help of a team of doctors.3

However, this does not mean it is without issues. SAGE has not been proven to be an accurate diagnostic test for Alzheimer’s. It can also give false positive results. A false positive is when the results indicate that someone has dementia when they do not. This is much less likely to happen if you are tested by a doctor.1

The Alzheimer’s Association warns that home screening tests are not a substitute for a doctor's thorough examination. But they can be a helpful and easy tool if you:1

  • Have poor or no healthcare coverage
  • Have difficulty getting to appointments
  • Want to keep an eye on your symptoms between visits with your doctor