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Memory Disorders, Dementia and Alzheimer's Treatment from Drexel Neurosciences Institute

The Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Program in Philadelphia offers expert treatment for patients with Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia or cognitive loss.

Diagnosing Memory Disorders

When diagnosing memory disorders, Drexel neurologists begin their assessments by asking these questions:

  • Is there a decline in thinking that is greater than that expected for age?
  • What is the diagnosis? For example, is it Alzheimer's disease?
  • What practical assistance is available? This may include medications to improve cognition and behavior or strategies to help manage problems.
  • Are there caregiver issues to address?
  • Are there research options available?

A general physical exam, neurological exam, mental status testing (often with a neuropsychological testing screen), and needs assessment are conducted. Specialized tests may also be performed and include:

  • PET or SPECT scanning
    • Routine PET or SPECT
    • Amyloid imaging, which involves a PET scan, is offered upon request. The purpose of this scan is to estimate the beta-amyloid plaque density in the brain. We are the first center in Philadelphia to offer this diagnostic tool to our memory patients.
  • MRI or CT scans of the brain
  • Diagnostic CSF (cerebrospinal fluid) studies, also known as a spinal tap. This involves the collection of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) for testing. CSF, which is normally clear and colorless, surrounds the brain and spinal cord and acts as a buffer. Any changes in the fluid's color, consistency or quantity may indicate a neurological disease or disorder. During a spinal tap, anesthetic is injected into the skin of the lower back, followed by a long, thin needle that will measure the CSF pressure and collect fluid for testing. After the sample is collected, the needle is removed. The patient remains flat for an hour after the test. 
  • Neuropsychological assessment, which consists of paper-and-pencil or computerized tests that are used to determine brain function. Intelligence, memory, language function, and overall function are usually evaluated to see if there is an indication of loss of ability. 
  • Electroencephalography (EEG), which measures and records the electrical activity of the neurons in the brain. During an EEG, 21 electrodes are placed on the brain with a conductive gel. The electrodes are connected to the EEG equipment which amplifies the brain's activity. Brain activity is recorded for 20 minutes.
  • Cerebrovascular studies
  • Genetic testing or other blood testing

At the end of the assessment, we will discuss options for treatment, including enrollment in drug studies. The amount of follow-up depends on the wishes of the patient, family, and referring physician. Many patients are reevaluated at four-month intervals when medication changes are recommended. Otherwise, patients who wish to follow up do so at six- to twelve-month intervals.

Resources for Caregivers of Those with Memory Disorders

Caring for a loved one with dementia is very stressful. We provide needs assessments and offer caregiver education classes to help ease stress and decrease the burden of the disease for caregivers.

Needs Assessments

The needs assessment is a questionnaire used to determine the needs of both the patient and the caregiver. This tool aids in evaluating the patient and caregiver's current situation and identifying areas of potential concern. Topics addressed include the care network, living arrangements, and issues with independence, safety and education. Information concerning local aging services, disease-specific associations, clinical trial options, tips for common problems, and other various resources are offered during the needs assessment. Specific plans to address the determined needs are tailored for each individual patient and caregiver. View our needs assessment questionnaire.

The following documents are offered at the patient visit and are also available here for your convenience:

Additional useful links for caregivers:

Learn More

Contact Katie Rife at krife@drexelmed.edu or 215.762.6915 for more information about caregiver education.

Caregiver Education

We offer free education classes for caregivers of patients with memory disorders.

Classes are held in small groups and cover topics that include:

  • The biological basis of the disease
  • Methods of caregiving
  • Interactive problem solving
  • Stress reduction tips

Personalized family education is also available by request. The education classes are offered in person at 219 N. Broad Street on the 7th floor.

Philadelphia Ujima

We have partnered with Philadelphia Ujima to provide our patients with additional tips and information on brain health and memory disorders.

Have a brain health question? Tweet @phillyujima, post a comment or question on the Facebook page, or read our blog posts.

Memory Disorders Research

Clinical Research for Memory Disorders

Learn More

If you are interested in participating in a research study, please call Katie Rife at krife@drexelmed.edu or 215.762.6915.

The Drexel Neurosciences Institute offers numerous research studies and clinical trials for our patients to provide additional opportunities for treatment.

Examples of previous studies conducted in the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Program include:

  • Vaccines
  • Immunotherapies
  • Vitamins
  • Nutritional supplements
  • Genetic screens
  • Technology research

Our research team members have extensive experience managing studies and encourage patients and their caregivers to participate. A dedicated, reliable caregiver is required for all studies.

Learn more about clinical research for memory disorders.

Drexel's Memory Disorders Treatment Team

Drexel's memory disorders team includes neurologists, pharmacologists, psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses and researchers.

Director

Clinicians

Researcher

Staff

  • Monica Mazurek
  • Katie Rife

Additional Memory Disorders Links

Disease-specific Associations

Alzheimer’s Association  
Lewy Body Dementia Association, Inc. 
Posterior Cortical Atrophy Support Group through the University College London 
The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration

Local and Federal Resources

Administration on Aging 
Clinical Trials 
Community Resource Finder through the Alzheimer's Association 
National Institute on Aging
Philadelphia Corporation for Aging
Philadelphia Ujima

The information on these pages is provided for general information only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment, or as a substitute for consultation with a physician or health care professional. If you have specific questions or concerns about your health, you should consult your health care professional.

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