A Note About Alzheimer’s Disease

By: William B. Askren, PhD Psychology

I attended a workshop regarding Alzheimer’s on September 6, 2012 at Miami Valley Hospital South in Dayton, OH sponsored by the local Alzheimer’s Association group. The principal professional speaker was Dr. Larry Lawhorne, a senior MD. I believe that the information presented could be of interest to members of OPA, thus this note. Here’s a summary of that information.

  • There is no single, definitive “test” that indicates that the patient has Alzheimer’s.
  • Rather it seems that the diagnosis is based on the judgment of an experienced mental health professional who integrates the results of a number of “tests.”
  • These “tests” include:

-Patient history including current medications
-Physical examination
-Blood tests
-Brain Imaging Studies
-Neuropsychological testing

  • The treatment “today” for prevention and “cure” of Alzheimer’s seems to be promoting a healthy life style such as: no smoking, alcohol in moderation, exercise, control blood pressure, control cholesterol, taking aspirin
  • The treatment “tomorrow” may use new drugs (under development) to control the build-up of plaque around the brain neurones, and to help the neurotransmitters to maintain their efficiency.

My Conclusions
1. There seems to be a big role for psychologists to interact with the medical team to help assess the psychological/behavioral status of the patient, thus helping arrive at the Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
2. A big benefit of the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is that the diagnosis can be coded for billing purposes. The CPT manual provides the Diagnostic Code 331.0 for Alzheimer’s disease for this purpose. Another benefit of using the term Alzheimer’s is the use of the term to organize the gathering of statistics on the severity of the condition. The term also provides a focus for the seeking money to support research on the condition.
3. A personal observation: My experience with older folks indicates that some seniors are “frightened” by the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, and this very diagnosis may contribute to depression. A possible alternative diagnosis might be something like: you have some diminished capacities (defined) as a result of aging. Followed by: and here is a treatment plan for you directed at helping you deal with these diminished capacities. (A side note: the legal profession loves the thought of “diminished capacities.”)

William B. Askren, PhD, Psychology, Dayton, Ohio
Ohio Psychology License, ABPP Diplomate
Tele: 937.253.2477 E-Mail: willask@roadrunner.com

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