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Monday, 3 July, 2000, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
Coins used 'to diagnose' dementia
Elderly man
There are over 700,000 people with dementia in the UK
Doctors in Cheshire are testing patients for senile dementia by asking them if they can recognise a 20 pence coin.

Psychiatrists at Leighton Hospital in Crewe show a 20 pence piece and old pennies to elderly patients.

They ask them to identify the coins and if they could use them in a shop. They are also asked to tell the time as part of the test which lasts about one minute.

Dr Dave Hambridge invented the test after observing the confusion experienced by elderly patients suffering from senile dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

He found that elderly people often wore watches showing the wrong time. They also went into shops, put down a handful of coins, and asked the assistant to take the right money.

Some did not know what a 20p coin looked like, while others thought the old penny could still be used.



Asking older people to tell the time and identify coins may speedily identify those subjects who might have chronic brain failure

Dr Dave Hambridge, Leighton Hospital, Crewe

In a pilot study of 47 mainly Alzheimer's disease patients, aged over 65, nine failed to tell the time. A further 15 did not recognise a 20p coin and 26 believed the old 1d coins were still legal tender.

Assessment

"Asking older people to tell the time and identify coins may speedily identify those subjects who might have chronic brain failure and for whom a more detailed assessment should be taken," said Dr Hambridge.

Addressing the Royal College of Psychiatrists annual meeting in Edinburgh, he said the test was needed because current screening techniques required an experienced examiner and took up valuable consultant time.

There are over 700,000 people with dementia in the UK.

Dementia is a disease of the brain that causes a progressive decline in the ability to reason, to think, to remember and to learn. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia.

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02 May 00 | Health
Obesity linked to dementia
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