Alzheimer’s Dementia (AD) - Understanding the Basics

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the most common cause of dementia among older people.

 There are more than 5 million Americans suffering with this disease. (Estimated 13 million by 2050). Frequency of AD reaches 20-40 percent of the population over the age of 85. Currently only 60% of probable AD cases are diagnosed. Average annual nursing home cost for AD patient is more than $55,000. Caregiver spent 40-100 hours per week with AD patient.

Early Signs:  problems with short term/recent memory, word finding, difficulty learning new information, difficulty planning meals, managing finances, forgetting to take medicine. Later they will start getting lost, misplacing objects, trouble paying bills, repeating questions, taking longer to complete daily tasks, using poor judgment, having mood and personality changes.

 In moderate cases, memories and confusion grows worse. They have trouble recognizing family and friends. In advanced cases, they are completely dependent on others for their care.

Risk factors for AD include old age, positive family history, heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.

Mediterranean diet, physical and social activity and mentally stimulating exercises can all help people stay healthy as they age.


Mini-Cog: Brief only 3 min test, can be done at home by anyone.

1/ Instruct patient to listen carefully and give them 3 word to remember (such as: Apple, watch, penny).

2/ Have them draw a face of a clock with numbers and have them put hands to 10 past 11.

3/ Ask the patient to recall 3 words given previously.

If they recall all 3 then not demented, if 0 recall then demented.

If they recall 1-2, then look at the clock drawing, if correct then not demented, if wrong drawing then demented. Seek further testing through their physician such as CT, MRI, PET scan of brain, CBC, ANA, ESR, TSH, Vitamin B12 level.

AD is very complex disease for which there is no cure so far. Treatment consists of prevention, early diagnosis, early medication, supporting care and long term care.

There are medications available to delay the cognitive decline. Aricept, Namenda , Exelon patch are some of them.

Your local Alzheimer’s association chapter will have lot of resources for patient and caregiver.

Waseem Ahmad, MD

Board Certified Neurologist

For more information or if you would like to schedule an appointment with our board-certified neurologist please send us a request at