I sat down with Dr. Ronald DeVere, a passionate participant, advocate and chairman of Texas Alzheimer’s.
His impressive history includes the studying of neurological and neuromuscular medicine. Trained in cognitive neurology and internal medicine, he is an incredibly smart individual who has immense passion for learning about and treating Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and memory disorders.
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Dr. DeVere’s AD&MD medical practice has been open since 1993 when he first opened his doors in Houston, TX. Since then, he has migrated to Austin, TX where he currently sees patients and serves on a handful of Alzheimer’s and memory related boards.
The Future of Alzheimer’s
Upon speaking with Dr. DeVere, one is immediately comforted by the immense wisdom and experience he has with neurology and Alzheimer’s research. With years of training in cognitive neurology, internal medicine, neuromuscular science, and 24 years of experience running his own practice, Dr. DeVere knows quite a a few things about Alzheimer’s and other memory loss dementia. While there is no current cure for the disease, Dr. DeVere points out that in recent years there has been a progress and more awareness that led to more research being done:
“What we do have is more info and knowledge on the disease, thanks to research and awareness.”
When asked about the future of Alzheimer’s research he goes on to state his optimism for the future saying that,
“There are no ‘magic bullets’ when it comes to Alzheimer’s, but we know more about the disease now which is a great improvement in my book and means we’re headed in the right direction”.
How detection and diagnosis of Alzheimer’s works in a specialized clinic?
The key is to determine the difference between a memory impaired situation and dementia issues. I’ve known Dr. DeVere for a number of years, and this sums up his position more than anything. As a frontline practitioner in my dementia communities, I will attest to the absolute important to differentiate between mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and AD. It determines what the next steps from both a therapeutic and care perspective. These different diseases can have very different therapies and outcomes.
Many times a early stage Alzheimer’s patients do not directly see the changes in their behaviors but their family members do. According to Dr. DeVere, it is very frequent that someone, during a visit, explains their issues as:
“I don’t see anything wrong with myself…but my daughter sees it”.
That is when drilling into the symptoms seems to be most effective. I have always advised families to call ahead to the physician or their nurse, to let them know some salient facts before the examination. This can help prevent an awkward situation where the primary caregiver isn’t able to reveal the exact circumstances because their loved one is physically present in the room.
There are a number of steps that need to be taken to achieve the most accurate data points to present to the physician:
A trained caregiver is sent to live alongside the senior for some time. These professionals have a form that they need to fill with “Activities of Daily Living” where they note information and data points that would point to “normal”, “mild” and “severe” category, based on what we assume is a deviation from a regular routine.
Furthermore to diagnose Alzheimer’s — patients are subject to small cognitive ability tests. These are rather quick with an average completion time of 15 minutes. Questions are asked in a way that require the patient to detail and break down processes of certain activities, such as drawing what they’re asked, describe pictures and concepts, explaining an everyday routine etc. to gauge their ability to do and remember how to accomplish these tasks if they were alone.
Additionally a neurological exam is carried out, this assess the quality of body functions such as vision, swallowing, speech, muscles (including the way someone would hold itself while walking down a hallway)
Determining the cause of dementia
As all the tests and steps are carried out by the doctor and assistants, all the data is examined and compared. This is when the gravity of the dementia is assessed and the therapy decided.
If the data shows a potential risk of Alzheimer’s disease - Ronald usually prescribes other tests that assess the levels of Vitamin B-12 (which helps maintain healthy nerve cells and red blood cells), Vitamin D and other such as thyroid test and homocysteine proteins levels.
A different kind of approach to therapy
Unlike other doctors who prescribe the same pills and medicine to seniors with Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. DeVere prefers to get to the bottom of the diagnosis and understand the type of Alzheimer’s a patient may have. The stage and advancement speed may impact what medicine can be prescribed and most importantly it can reduce medical costs. To achieve this he uses medical methods such as a PETSCAN — Positron emission tomography.
A passion for his work
Ronald, has always been interested in how the brain works and operates, and most importantly he always had a passion for anything in the realm of cognitive science.
As we concluded the interview we asked him what tips he could share that come from years of expert work in this domain.
Dr. DeVere is a strong believer that looking into your family’s history to see if anyone has suffered from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is the first step to an early diagnosis. He suggests looking into it as early as when you’re in your 30’s and 40’s.
A lot of people are misdiagnosed — up to 40% — one of the reasons might be according to him, that our physicians are so busy and have so many patients that sometimes a human error is the cause of the misdiagnosis.
As we stand up and greet Dr. DeVere for his time he mentions
I really love what I do
Having had the pleasure to work alongside Dr. DeVere for a number of years I can enthusiastically say that he really does love what he does. Thank you for your time and sharing your story and knowledge on AD.
If you’re interested in learning more about what The Helper Bees is doing for Alzheimer’s and dementia seniors, please do get in touch!