Alzheimer's Disease

The team at Henry Ford Hospital specializes in a coordinated approach to caring for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. We offer the most advanced diagnostic testing and treatment options for patients suffering from this and other cognitive disorders. These tests include genetic tests and functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure brain activity.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia, a general term for the loss of mental functions such as thinking, memory, and reasoning that is severe enough to interfere with a person's daily functioning.

Although dementia is far more common in people over 65 years of age population, it can occur in younger individuals as well. This is referred to as "early onset dementia" and occurs in up to 5 percent of people with the disease.

Alzheimer's is a progressive disease, meaning the dementia symptoms gradually worsen over a number of years. Because Alzheimer's is a complex disease that affects higher brain functions and learning, patients in the final stages of the disease have trouble performing the tasks that keep our bodies alive and functioning. In some cases, people suffering from the condition may need to eventually reside in a long-term care facility where they can receive 24/7 care.

Symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

The Alzheimer's Association has developed a checklist of 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s disease to help determine if memory loss is a serious health concern.

The ten warning signs of Alzheimer’s are:

  • Memory loss
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks
  • Problems with language
  • Disorientation to time and place
  • Poor or decreased judgment
  • Problems with abstract thinking
  • Misplacing things
  • Changes in mood or behavior
  • Changes in personality
  • Loss of initiative

Expert diagnosis of Alzheimer’s at Henry Ford

Complex neurological disorders require a complete examination and different tests, depending on the patient’s condition. Our expert team of neuropsychologists uses the latest tools to diagnose the stages of memory loss and dementia. Our process also includes an interview with the patient and significant other or caregiver, when possible.

We perform evaluations to:

  • Identify the causes of memory loss
  • Evaluate the extent of the deficiency
  • Recommend a plan for enhancing memory

The diagnostic tests may include:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Brain imaging studies
  • Electroencephalography (EEG), electromyography (EMG), and/or cerebrospinal fluid tests.
  • Mental status and neuropsychological assessments

We use computer-based testing for a more thorough investigation of abilities such as reaction time. The evaluation may last a few hours or most of a day, depending on each patient.

Advanced diagnostic studies at Henry Ford include:

  • Dementia-specific speech and occupational therapy tests of brain function
  • Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI)
  • Genetic tests such as apolipoprotein E alleles and presenilin gene mutations

Our doctors also participate in the Consortium to Establish Registry for Alzheimer’s Disease (CERAD), to standardize procedures for the evaluation and diagnosis of patients with Alzheimer’s and ensure the best care possible.

How is Alzheimer’s treated?

Treatment of Alzheimer’s disease focuses on helping the patient and their family to understand the condition and manage day-to-day life.

Treatments recommendations may include:

  • Medications
  • Referrals to speech therapy
  • Behavioral modification strategies
  • Referrals to other specialists at Henry Ford to address underlying issues that may affect memory, such as medications

We provide access to medicines through pharmaceutical drug assistance programs for patients who cannot afford them.

Advanced research therapies for Alzheimer’s at Henry Ford

Whenever possible, our doctors provide opportunities for Alzheimer’s patients to participate in experimental drug trials, such as the ongoing MINT trial for metrifonate. Other ongoing research studies focus on interactions of stroke and dementia, the role of genetics and responses to newer medications such as Aricept ®.

Reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease

While there is no treatment for this cognitive disorder, people can take some steps that may reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s. These include:

  • Lowering cholesterol and homocysteine levels
  • Lowering high blood pressure levels
  • Controlling diabetes
  • Exercising regularly
  • Engaging in activities that stimulate the mind
  • Maintaining a balanced diet
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