By Teri Okita |CBS News|

OHIO (CBSDFW.COM) – The number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease is on the rise. It’s critical, according to doctors, to identify problems with memory and thinking as soon as possible. Now a simple test could help spot early signs of the disease.

It’s called SAGE, or Self-Administered Gerocognitive Exam. Researchers at Ohio State University say the simple, self-administered test can help spot cognitive changes. The four page test, which was given to people 50 and older, measured language, reasoning, problem solving and memory.

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“We are able to use it very easily in community settings,” said Director of Cognitive Neurology At Ohio State University, Dr. Douglas Scharre.

Dr. Scharre said people may take the test at home, the senior center or the doctor’s office and it takes less than 15 minutes. Previous research shows it can detect 80 percent of people with mild thinking and memory issues. Researchers hope the test will help catch cognitive changes earlier so doctors can start treatment right away.

“Patients just come in too late to be identified. They come into their doctors office perhaps 3 or 4 years after people have noticed specific cognitive issues,” said Dr. Scharre.

That was the case with Emily Caldwell’s mother Bonnie. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease 8 years ago. Her  family suspected something wasn’t right 2 years before that but didn’t act on it.

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Emily said the test would have made a big difference with her mom.

“It definitely would have helped us confirm our suspicions and maybe try to be more aggressive about getting her evaluated,” said Caldwell.

Researchers said people who take the test should talk to their doctor before interpreting results. They also caution that the study doesn’t diagnose a person with Alzheimer’s disease.

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