By Anjali Patel, DO, a cognitive neurologist at the Memory and Cognitive Program, Atlantic Neuroscience Institute
While dementia — of which Alzheimer’s disease is a type — is a broad umbrella term referring to a cognitive decline in memory, language, executive function, visual spatial skills and other capabilities that impact daily life and function, the experts at Atlantic Health System know that all memory loss is not the same. The accurate diagnosis of a patient’s specific type of cognitive decline is critical because it drives development of their unique care plan/strategy and helps families better understand their loved one’s condition and what to expect as their disease progresses.
A sound diagnosis begins with a thorough patient history. We work with family members to understand what their loved one’s symptoms are, when they started, and how they’ve changed. We discuss everything from their loved one’s mood, behavior, and how they’re sleeping to whether they’re falling, having tremors, or can care for themselves.
A diagnostic evaluation includes a thorough review of the patient’s medical history to ensure that their condition is not being caused by side effects of medication, underlying infections or vitamin deficiencies. The evaluation includes memory tests and a full neurological exam to assess the status of an individual’s cranial nerves, memory, muscle weakness, stiffness, reflexes, sensory function, gait and balance. In addition, imaging studies are obtained to assess brain tissue loss, vascular disease and more — all of which contribute to an accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease and its stage.
At Overlook, our CAT scanner, cutting-edge MRI machine and FDG-PET scanner allow us to examine a patient’s brain tissue anatomy with great precision and to differentiate between Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Within our comprehensive Memory and Cognitive Program, our specially trained team of doctors, nurses, neuropsychologists and neurologists take pride in determining the underlying cause of memory loss and the most effective course of treatment. We hope to provide patients and their families with the utmost in care, guidance, and support throughout their journey.
Dr. Anjali N. Patel is a fellowship-trained cognitive neurologist at the Memory and Cognitive Program, Atlantic Neuroscience Institute. She is also part of Atlantic Medical Group, a multispecialty network of health care clinicians. She can be reached at 908-522-2829.