Early detection is essential to preserving memory in Alzheimer's patients

13 November 2007

When people develop memory concerns, they fear a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and may be reluctant to discuss their concerns with family or physicians. This reluctance often results in delayed diagnosis and treatment, which can negatively impact care, says Dr Jody Talbott of the Neuropsychology & Memory Center, in Naples, Florida.

"Alzheimer's disease is not a part of normal aging," Dr Talbott explains. "Occasional memory lapses are normal. Alzheimer's is different. It presents with distinct symptoms, most commonly a loss of memory for recent information such as conversations and events."

Dr. Talbott says early intervention is essential. Addressing memory concerns takes teamwork. Physicians can perform tests to determine if memory concerns may be explained by a medical condition, such as diabetes, or suggest the possibility of Alzheimer's. Neuropsychologists work with physicians to determine the extent of memory difficulties and arrive at diagnoses. This team approach to medical care offers patients an optimal course of treatment.

As yet, there is no cure for Alzheimer's. However, there is reason to be hopeful. "Research has advanced our understanding of this condition and led to treatments that better preserve and protect cognitive function, slowing down the rate at which memory problems progress," Dr Talbott explains.

The Neuropsychology & Memory Center offers scheduled free memory screenings for anyone with memory concerns. Screenings help to differentiate troublesome symptoms from normal memory lapses. "Screenings are quick and simple," Dr Talbott says. "They consist of short questions and tasks designed to test memory, language, and thinking. Screenings are not designed to diagnose conditions, but simply to alert patients to the need for further evaluation."

"November is National Alzheimer's Awareness month. Heightened focus on this important issue nationally presents a unique opportunity to raise public awareness and affect a positive change locally," Dr. Talbott states. "I am passionate about getting the word out about the importance of early detection. Being proactive improves quality of life and facilitates independence."

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