Doctors and other health professionals use mini-mental status exams to determine whether patients have dementia. This is exam is more correctly known as the mini-mental state exam.
During a mini-mental status exam, a health professional asks a patient a series of questions. The questions are used to assess the patient's orientation to time and place, attention, language and ability to recall, among other functions.
Patients receive points based on their answers. The maximum number of points a patient can obtain is 30. Patients who score between 20 and 24 may have mild dementia, while patients who receive scores between 13 and 20 likely have moderate dementia. A score of 12 or less indicates severe dementia.
A mini-mental status exam is easy to administer. It takes five to 10 minutes and requires no equipment.
There are some disadvantages to this exam. It is not a sensitive assessment and may not, for example, allow a health care professional to distinguish between a patient with mild dementia and a patient with normal cognitive abilities. Exam administrators should take into consideration a patient's age, educational level and any disabilities. These factors can affect the score, and the administrator should adjust the exam questions or score accordingly.