Helping Tomorrow's Alzheimer's Patients
The daughter wondered if her elderly mother was showing early signs of Alzheimer’s or just experiencing normal memory loss.
Two CHI Health researchers were able to diagnose the older woman – who did have the debilitating disease.
At the same time, those researchers were helping future Alzheimer’s patients.
Geriatrician Heather Morgan, MD, and Nuclear Physician Samuel Mehr, MD, are part of a $20 million U.S. two-year clinical trial to test whether lifestyle intervention can help prevent cognitive decline in 2,500 older adults. The trial could also determine whether Medicare will pay for PET scans that look for the sticky amyloid plaque that accompanies Alzheimer’s.
Only three researchers in the state of Nebraska were selected for the groundbreaking study. “Patients say to me, ‘I really want to know if I have Alzheimer’s so I can plan for the future,’” Morgan said. “They want to know what they’re facing.”
A diagnosis also helps families adjust emotionally to what’s ahead. In this case the family made plans to have a family member visit the mother every day so they could spend as much time as possible with her before her health declined.
“CHI Health is proud to make this very important opportunity available to the community,” Mehr said. “The results will be very important to our aging society because providers now will be able to come up with the best possible treatment plan.”
Preliminary findings show that in two-thirds of cases, scan results changed doctors’ initial plans for counseling and medications. With early detection, doctors are able to prescribe the right medication to slow the progression of the disease. Additional lifestyle interventions could include physical exercise, nutritional counseling and modification, as well as cognitive and social stimulation.
Results also can help families take advantage of resources to help them deal with their eventual loss.