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Alzheimer's Screening: July 08, 2011

While Alzheimer’s disease may be progressive and incurable, experts still find value in trying to detect it as early as possible. It can help with both drug therapies and for family planning purposes.

The warning signs are usually there; memory loss that disrupts daily life, difficulty completing familiar tasks and confusion with time or place. People often mistake them as part of the natural aging process.

“How much of that is from a disease like Alzheimer’s disease that’s attacking the memory center of the brain and how much of its normal aging those are the areas we focus on and try to differentiate so people can start planning for their future,” says Dr. Michael Raab with Lee Memorial Health System.

Dr. Raab is a geriatrician who works to screen patients for Alzheimer’s disease.

“We do regular MRI scans and look at the structure of the brain, has there been excessive shrinkage in the memory center call the hippocampus or is there shrinkage in some other area.”

That’s only one facet of the comprehensive evaluation done at Lee Memory Care.

“We’re fortunate to have neuropsychologists, that spend about three hours interviewing people doing standardized tests where they are able to compare the person against their age related norms,” says Dr. Raab.

Patients will also undergo a physical exam. It looks at how the brain controls balance and how well someone can more from one position to another. And how quickly they can do it.

Testing smells is another tool experts use in making a diagnosis.

“We look at the olfactory sensation and how well those memories which can evoke a lot of memories as you know from smell,” says Dr. Raab.

Looking at all these can flesh out a full picture and give those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s the benefit of time.