5 Free Cognitive Assessments for Occupational Therapists
Finding free cognitive assessments that are applicable for occupational therapists can be a challenge when you’re in a time crunch or new to the field.
As you may have found, rehab settings don’t always have these easily on hand when you’re in need of assessing a patient’s cognition during an evaluation or treatment.
Because of this, we did the research for you and found these easy to access cognitive assessments that can be quickly printed off when you’re in a pinch.
These cognitive assessments can be used in pretty much any adult-based occupational therapy setting, from acute care, to inpatient rehab, sub-acute rehab or outpatient, depending on what aspect of cognition you’re looking to assess. You can use the results from any of these assessments to guide your treatments, share with your rehab team for discharge planning and/or determine if your patient will benefit from further follow-up from their physician or neuropsychologist.
So without further ado, here are 5 free* cognitive assessments, along with how-to instructions if you’re new to using them.
1. The Saint Louis University Mental Status (SLUMS) Examination
The SLUMS examination is a popular and quick cognitive assessment, and is my go-to free assessment (especially since the MoCA cognitive assessment is no longer free). The SLUMS incorporates a clock drawing task, animal naming, figure differentiation and size differentiation, assessing orientation, memory, attention, and executive function. It’s purpose is used to detect mild cognitive impairment and dementia.
If you aren’t familiar with how to use the SLUMS, be sure to check out their training video here.
2. Confusion Assessment Method for the ICU (CAM-ICU)
The CAM-ICU is a great assessment for OTs working in the intensive care unit (ICU) to assess and monitor delirium. This is different from the other tests which looking for dementia, whereas this assessment looks for an acute onset of delirium.
This is defined by the CAM-ICU as “a disturbance of consciousness characterized by acute onset and fluctuating course of inattention accompanied by either a change in cognition or a perceptual disturbance, so that a patient’s ability to receive, process, store, and recall information is impaired.”
Delirium in the hospital develops quickly, over a short period of time and, unlike some forms of dementia, is usually reversible.
This test is an important one to use as ICU delirium often results in increased risks of: mortality, length of stay, healthcare costs, time on ventilator and re-intubation, long-term cognitive impairment, and discharge to long-term care facility.
Here is the full training manual for how to use the CAM-ICU.
3. The Short-Blessed Test
The Short-Blessed Test (with instructions included in the link) is a quick cognitive screen designed to help detect early cognitive changes associated with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias for OTs working with older adults. The scores range from normal cognition, questionable impairment, or impairment consistent with dementia.
4. The Kettle Test
The Kettle Test is a functional cognitive screening test that involves the client preparing two cups of a hot beverage; one for the individual being assessment and one for the examiner. The examiner asks the client to prepare a hot drink that differs in two ingredients from the one he/she chose for the examiner.
The test does require a few ingredients but your facility may already have them on hand. These include a kettle, instant coffee, tea, sugar/sweetener, milk, salt, pepper and oil (as distraction items). Other items include 3 cups, a milk pitcher, a bowl, 2 plates, 3 small spoons, a large spoon, 2 forks, a knife, and a can opener (again with distraction items).
The test with directions has a scoring guide, included in the link above. The scores range from 0-52, with higher scores reflecting more severe problems in performance. The average assessment administration time is 10-30 minutes.
5. The Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE)*
The Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) is a very quick 5-10 minute screening that looks for cognitive impairment and possible dementia. The domains it assesses include orientation, registration, attention, calculation, and language and praxis. The scores range from no cognitive impairment to severe cognitive impairment.
Here are the full instructions on how to use the Mini-Mental Status Exam.
*Update: While the Mini-Mental State Exam is available widely for free access via multiple internet sources, it is copywritten by Psychological Assessment Resources (PAR), so you’ll want to check that your workplace has purchased a license before you use it. If you would like to purchase your own MMSE license, you (or your workplace) can do so here.
If you’re interested in the specific statistics of each individual cognitive assessment, simply enter the name into the Rehabilitation Measures Database here.
Do you have any other favorite free cognitive assessments that you use in your practice? Please feel free to share them in the comments below!
This post was originally published on June 18, 2017 and last updated on May 23, 2023.