Memory Clinics: Establishing the Diagnosis of Pre-clinical Alzheimer’s Disease

Hannah Hoag, MSc

The loss of memory is considered a normal component of the aging process. As most people age, they lose some short-term memory and experience a decline in their learning ability. However, these changes tend to be relatively benign and the ability of a person to perform day-to-day functions remains intact. In contrast, a person suffering from dementia may be unable to function autonomously.

Memory clinics, such as the Anna and Louis Goldfarb Memory Clinic at the Jewish General Hospital (JGH) in Montreal, were established for the purposes of evaluating, diagnosing and treating those people who suffer from memory deficiencies. Two memory clinics are held at the JGH each week, which allows for the evaluation of 14 to 16 patients per week, and approximately 500 patients per year.

The JGH memory clinic, established in 1991, is now the largest in Canada. The co-directors of the clinic, Dr. Howard Bergman1 and Dr. Howard Chertkow,2 have assembled an interdisciplinary team. This team consists of geriatricians, neurologists, neuropsychologists, nurses, and study and clinic co-ordinators, all of whom, collectively diagnose and treat elderly patients with memory disorders.

There are more than 70 documented disorders that cause dementia. Alzheimer's disease (AD) is the most frequently diagnosed form of dementia, and accounts for approximately 65% of all cases. The prevalence of AD in the population of people over the age 65 is 10 to 15%.