Written By:  Gayle Horton

The Mini Mental State Examination is a widely used method for assessing cognitive status. The evaluation of cognitive functioning is important in clinical settings because of the high prevalence of cognitive impairment in older adults today.

It is used as a clinical instrument to screen patients mental status, but also to follow the course of an illness and to monitor mental decline over a period of time. It assesses orientation, immediate and short-term recall, language, and the ability to follow simple verbal and written commands. It also provides a total score that places the individual on a scale of function.

There is an inverse relationship between the MMSE score and age of the person and years of schooling. Someone with a college degree may score as high as (29) at a younger age and decline with age and cognitive impairment to score (14) or lower.

People often ask if you can improve your MMSE score, and I would suggest that you should be happy if the score does not change with the use of memory enhancement medications. People with a lower MMSE score should probably not be living alone. I am concerned about their judgment in an emergency, would they even remember how to call 911, let alone take their medications appropriately. Families often try to ignore the test scores as the person continues to decline over time, but it is much better to try to prevent a crisis rather than pick up the pieces.