|McLaren Greater Lansing
Phone: (517) 975-3200
Fax: (517) 975-3216
Why did I come in here? The name’s on the tip of my tongue! New Memory Clinic aims to identify early stage memory disorders...
McLaren Greater Lansing’s Memory Consultation Clinic, under the direction of William Beecroft, M.D., is screening for early stage Alzheimer’s disease (AD) – the primary cause of dementia. The toll taken by AD is devastating, because early memory disorder signs may appear in individuals in their early 50s and 60s, and increase markedly in patients over 65. This is particularly true if there is a family history of Alzheimer’s disease.
Physicians must refer patients to the clinic for testing and evaluation. The referring physician receives a synopsis of all evaluations, a treatment plan, and recommended medications that may significantly improve memory function, and delay the possible onset of AD. The patient’s primary care physician then implements the plan and monitors patient outcomes. Refer a patient by calling (517) 975-3200.
“We are a consultation, not a management service,” says Dr. Beecroft. “A number of specialists are involved in the consultation process, but what we’ve established is a virtual equivalent to the Neurology Clinic at the University of Michigan Consultation Service.
“If, by virtue of age, the patient qualifies, they will undergo a geropsychiatry consultation or a geriatric neurology consultation. If the patient is younger, we also do neuropsychological testing and MRI imaging. Sometimes, a sleep study evaluation is helpful, as is a physical therapy evaluation. It gives the patient, family and primary care doctor a treatment baseline.
“There is a big difference between normal decline of memory function and abnormal decline. Memory itself won’t decline. It’s all the other ‘soft’ factors that affect declining memory. If you remember you forgot something, you may be frustrated.
“But if you forgot what you forgot, than we’ve progressed beyond early stage Alzheimer’s disease. This translates into activities such as: leaving a frying pan on a hot stove; getting lost in familiar areas; repeatedly locking yourself out of the house; inability to balance a checkbook; and forgetting appointments or important dates in one’s life.
“We are at our cognitive peak in our late teens to early 30s. Everything is new and remembered easily. Age is on your side because we tend to be more active, have seemingly endless energy, and are usually in good health.
“As we age, we may acquire medical conditions that demand our time, energy and memory – stress, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart issues, cognitive overload at work and home. You reach a point where you aren’t able to attend to everything.”
OUR MINDS WORK LIKE COMPUTERS
“There’s a short-term memory hard drive and a long-term memory hard drive,” says Dr. Beecroft. When we’re in our 20s and 30s, we can easily memorize cell phone numbers, passwords, and names, and multi-task very well. Once the short-term memory RAM is full, information begins to fall out of memory. We rely on planners, blackberries or lists to track our activities.
“In mid-life, we start to see hormonal changes in both sexes, medication interactions that may contribute to less-than-ideal memory recall. If we’ve sustained even minor concussions, they’re cumulative. The same is true with use of alcohol or drugs, particularly if we’ve come to rely on these substances to ‘feel good.’ The more we’ve used, the longer it takes for our mind to retrieve information. Our memory and concentration have been compromised.”
NEED TO STEP UP DIAGNOSIS OF PRE-ALZHEIMER’S
“Not everyone who experiences mid-to early later life forgetfulness is destined to get Alzheimer’s. But, if we can step up diagnosis of memory deficits, and possible pre-Alzheimer’s symptoms, we can help many patients learn how to adjust their lives. They will feel more alert and physically fit, learn strategies to dispatch cognitive overload, and enjoy a more productive and healthy life.
“In our report to the referring physician, we note the patient’s mental status and further follow-up or referrals that may be beneficial. We encourage the referring physician to allow a little extra time with these patients. Little adjustments can go a long way in giving a patient purpose and hope:
“Alzheimer’s, sliding into dementia, is probably the most difficult challenge of aging, for both patient and caregiver. Early diagnosis and treatment helps the patient pursue hope and dignity.”
- Follow a Mediterranean diet – high in proteins, long chain carbohydrates, and eating non-saturated fats. Eat smaller meals more frequently during the day.
- If the patient is depressed, we recommend getting them into counseling. If a patient displays depression-like tendencies (lack of initiative or interest in pleasurable activities), it’s often the first symptom of early Alzheimer’s.
- As we age, we do not need as much sleep. By age 60, we need about six hours of sleep. Retaining one’s natural sleep cycle rhythms is important. We encourage referring physicians to make sure the patient isn’t going to bed at 9, waking at 2, and not getting adequate REM sleep. A nap during the day is fine, as long as it’s no longer than a half hour, and no later than 1 p.m.
- Get an annual flu vaccine and check-up, and the pneumonia vaccine after age 65.
- Clear the mind daily of junk to improve short-term memory. Meditation, prayer, and relaxation techniques help maintain mental clarity.
- Exercise every day to the limit of their ability. A half hour of aerobic walking can help a patient maintain their physical metabolism. The referring physician should suggest an activity strategy that matches the person’s physical condition.
- Find a hobby, or pursue a current one. Volunteer. Join some organization that brings the patient in contact with others.
- Exercise the mind. Work a crossword puzzle, play Suduko, card or board games. Put together a puzzle. Join a book discussion group.
Click here for Dr. Beecroft's Radio Interview - Part 1
Click here for Dr. Beecroft's Radio Interview - Part 2
Note: McLaren Greater Lansing does not benefit from nor endorse these web-ready mental fitness sites. Each offers a demonstration, some a free seven-day trial, and all involve a cost. You may want to check out these sites to see if they would be helpful in doing regular mind fitness exercises: