Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's Disease

Cognitive Impairment, Amnesia, Dementia and Other Memory Disorders

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Neurologists at Duke’s memory disorders clinic specialize in new diagnostic techniques that detect Alzheimer’s disease even before symptoms begin. We also diagnose and treat a wide range of memory problems including mild cognitive impairment, post-traumatic memory loss, amnesia, dementia, and normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH). We help caregivers access the care their loved ones need.

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Expert Care for You and Your Loved Ones

Family members play an important role in the lives of people with memory disorders. Our experts work closely with you, the caregiver, to discuss your loved one’s diagnosis, care and treatment. We offer family support programs and access to a variety of specialists including social workers and geropsychologists, who provide psychological services to older adults. We are here to help you care for your loved one.

Our Locations
Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.

Treatments

Medications

Cholinesterase inhibitors may keep memory symptoms under control. Memantine (Namenda) may help slow the progression of symptoms in people with moderate to severe disease. We review all medications, identify any and all problems or side effects, and help you make the right decisions regarding medication.

Environmental Changes

Adapting the home environment to be safe for people with memory problems is an important step. We help guide you through what changes might be necessary, such as adding guide rails and removing excess furniture.

Exercise and Nutrition

Maintaining proper nutrition and activity may become more challenging for people with memory disorders. We help you implement exercise routines and nutritional programs in order to promote restful sleep, avoid constipation and dehydration.

Speech Therapy and Communication Support

Speech pathologists evaluate people with dementia.  We focus on using your personal strengths and reducing your individual barriers to promote successful communication.   We listen to you, then problem solve with you and your family, and provide practical, functional and personalized strategies to overcome difficult situations. We also offer a specialized 8-week program that helps with communication breakdowns and memory issues, social isolation, or difficulty with conversations.  The groups provide individual and group therapy for the person with dementia and group education and support for the caregiver.  Groups run simultaneously for one hour a week.

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Tests

Our memory disorders clinic provides comprehensive evaluations and outpatient care. Our specialty is detecting the signs of mild cognitive impairment syndrome, a memory problem that is often an early symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Detecting Alzheimer’s disease early can help slow its progression. 

Comprehensive Evaluation

Some memory problems are caused by medical conditions, such as heart disease, infections, thyroid or hormonal imbalances. We start with a comprehensive evaluation to rule out other possible causes of you or your loved one’s memory problems. After a thorough diagnostic evaluation, we meet with you to discuss diagnosis and care, and develop a treatment plan.

Standard Tests

During the initial evaluation, your doctor will rely on a physical and neurological exam, blood tests, mental status testing and neuropsychological testing. MRI and CT scans may be performed to rule out other conditions that often look like Alzheimer’s disease.

PET with Florbetapir

This advanced PET scan uses radioactive tracers to make a 3-D model of brain function. Our research found a new dye called florbetapir can detect early evidence of Alzheimer’s disease in people with mild or no cognitive impairment. Predicting future decline can have a direct impact on the effectiveness of treatment.

Volumetric MRI

Measures the volume or size of the brain, unlike a traditional MRI which creates a picture of the brain. While it is still considered an experimental process, studies show that this fully automated procedure is effective in predicting the progression from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s disease.

Spinal Fluid Test

Analyzing cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) can detect whether a person has Alzheimer's disease before symptoms appear. This is performed most commonly through a spinal tap, a procedure in which your doctor inserts a spinal needle into your lower back in order to collect a sample of CSF.

Best Neurology, Neurosurgery in North Carolina
When it comes to your care, you want the very best. Duke University Hospital's nationally ranked neurology and neurosurgery program was named best in North Carolina by U.S. News & World Report for 2019–2020.

Why Choose Duke

Sophisticated Diagnostic Services
Early detection is the new frontier of Alzheimer’s disease treatment. We are pioneering new diagnostic techniques including an advanced type of PET scan and spinal fluid testing that can detect Alzheimer’s disease before symptoms begin.

Breakthrough Research
Our researchers at the Joseph and Kathleen Bryan Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center are known for their work studying the genetics, or family history related to, Alzheimer’s disease. We discovered the “risk gene” apolipoprotein E - the first gene variation found to increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s. Our work at the forefront of new discoveries in Alzheimer’s disease and other memory problems means you have access to new therapies before they become widely available.

Access to Clinical Trials
You or your loved one may be eligible to participate in our clinical trials, which offer access to novel therapies, including disease-modifying therapies, anti-amyloid therapies and medications that ease agitation.

Team Approach
Because there are many causes of memory loss, you and your loved one may work with experts in neurology, neuropsychology, geropsychiatry (a subspecialty of psychiatry dealing with mental illness in the elderly) and social work.

Patient and Family Support
There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, so developing a support network is essential. The Duke Family Support Program is a comprehensive resource for help with Alzheimer's disease, memory problems and elder care decisions.

Pathways to Prevention
​As part of our longstanding commitment to research, we have established the Bryan ADRC Alzheimer's Disease Prevention Registry. The registry is for individuals who do not have Alzheimer's disease and are interested in prevention-related research opportunities that promote healthy aging and dementia prevention.