Studies at Cleveland Clinic will work toward early detection of Alzheimer’s

CLEVELAND- It started with just a few forgotten things.

Retired pharmacist Ron DeChant would forget things people just told him a little while ago.

He says his mind felt muddled and he knew that something wasn't right.

"Both my wife and I noticed but she has more perspective and she really knew that something was happening,"  DeChant said.

After a battery of tests, the doctors confirmed that it was Alzheimer's.

Ron wasn't quite 60 years old, but both he and his wife, Colleeta, wouldn't let that diagnosis be the end of their lives together.

It was the beginning of their efforts to help others.

"We were thrilled when they told us about the blind study, again, that gave us more support. The thing that he was being watched he not only goes there every month for an infusion but he goes for testing," Colleeta said.

That testing is part of a comprehensive look at treatments for Alzheimer's by the Cleveland Clinic.

There is no known cure but researchers are trying to figure out ways to delay the onset of the illness through drugs and other non-medical means.

But what doctors find most promise is determining ways to detect the beginnings of Alzheimer's as early as possible.

"When you go for your wellness visits you get your blood pressure checked and your weight is examined and you have lab work, but you never get measured for your cognition," said  neuropsychologist Stephen Rao.

Rao, who is director of the Schey Center for Cognitive Neuroimaging at Cleveland Clinic, says studies starting this fall will work toward early detection of Alzeihmer's.

Rao says by the time people receive a full Alzheimer's diagnosis, in most cases they've already been living with the illness for a few years.

He says the cognitive tests are app-based and will work to help identify people who need more examination.

"We've developed self-administered cognitive tests that measure your memory-- what's called information processing speed-- in your executive functions, things that can go very early in the disease as much as ten years before a person is diagnosed," Rao said.

The DeChants have participated in several studies being done by the clinic including one that looks at exercise impacts on Alzheimer's.

So they go to the gym daily and walk together always.

But they've also been working hard to increase awareness, lobbying lawmakers with other families touched by this illness and working with support groups to share what they call their journey.

The Cleveland Clinic is running clinical trials for early detection of Alzheimer's and for people currently dealing with the disease. For more information, you can email the neurological center at cbhresearch@ccf.org

The DeChants  receive support at the Alzheimer's Association Cleveland Area Chapter.

For more information about the Alzheimer's Association Cleveland Area Chapter's free care and support services, community education programs, advocacy, special events, volunteer opportunities, and much more, click here or call the 24-7 Helpline at 800.272.3900.