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Dementia and its most common cause, Alzheimer's disease, affect memory and occur predominantly in the elderly. Dementia has become increasingly prevalent in the world as health has improved and life expectancy has increased. However, the fields of clinical care have not responded adequately to develop diagnostic tools and treatments for this rapidly increasing group of conditions. While scientists search for cures for the numerous causes of dementia, improvement of diagnostic measures are needed now and should begin with screening elderly populations for memory difficulties and other cognitive problems. This review examines the history of cognitive screening tests, the numerous excellent tests that are currently available and ready for use, and directions and methods that will lead to progressively better evaluations.