It consists of two components: a 3-item recall test for memory and a simply scored clock drawing test.
The test can be completed in 3 minutes. It can be used to assess patients at early stages of dementia whose problems with memory or thinking might not be obvious. Longer tests are typically designed for more in-depth evaluation once a problem has been identified.
Breaking Down Barriers to Diagnosis
Mini-Cog© can provide evidence that additional diagnostics are needed, breaking down barriers for patients, families and medical practitioners. Staff with varying amounts of medical knowledge can be trained to administer the test and effortlessly learn to deliver consistent scoring.
People who often might hesitate to acknowledge a problem to their doctor, loved ones or even themselves are typically willing to take the Mini-Cog© and accept its results. Its word recall and clock-drawing tasks are familiar. When someone makes an error in clock drawing, individuals, family members and clinicians alike can easily see that there’s a problem.
Reducing Dementia-Related Risks
While Mini-Cog© is quick and streamlined. It repeatedly matches the accuracy of much lengthier and involved tests when the goal is to detect cognitive impairment that can lead to serious problems.
Studies of older adults in community, independent living, primary care and hospital settings have found a relationship between low Mini-Cog© scores and an increased risk of poor self-management of medications and health, a greater need for everyday assistance, and higher rates of acute health problems.
Providing a First Step in Screening
But Mini-Cog© is only a first step toward understanding what’s wrong. Screenings should be interpreted carefully, with further evaluation to uncover the reasons for low scores. As with all screening tests, false positives (when a test suggests impairment that isn’t there) and false negatives (when a test doesn’t show a problem that is actually present) are possible. All cognitive screening tests can produce false positives and false negatives.
While the test format is simple, some individuals may find it challenging even if no cognitive disorder is present. The clock drawing exercise may prove difficult for individuals with very low education, literacy or intellectual ability. Alternative approaches might be required to detect possible dementia in these individuals.
An Important Tool for Health Equity
Dementia tends to be diagnosed later in people of color and non-English speakers. Few people in these communities seek out specialists in dementia care, which means they rely more heavily on general practitioners for diagnosis and care.
Primary care physicians provide the majority of diagnoses and ongoing care for individuals with dementia from all backgrounds, regardless of race or ethnicity. That’s why Mini-Cog© was designed to be easy to use in primary care and non-specialty health care settings, including community-based care.
Mini-Cog© is effective in identifying individuals in need of cognitive care across all backgrounds. Among people with different cultural, language and educational experiences, Mini-Cog© is simpler to administer and as good as longer tests in detecting cognitive impairment.