I recently received an update from Ezer Mizion, one of the charity organizations in Israel supported by the Northern Charitable Fund. Ezer Mizion is an umbrella organization that containing a variety of local nonprofits and health institutions in Israel, including the Tzipporah Fried Alzheimer’s Support Center, a nonprofit that’s near and dear to my heart. Ezer Mizion recently teamed up with the Young Alzheimer’s Patient Clinic in Petach Tikva, a new initiative led by Dr. Ophir Keret.
Dr. Keret is a neurologist who specializes in early onset dementia (EOD) and atypical dementia syndromes. He will be heading the new Young Alzheimer’s Patient Clinic at the Rabin Medical Center. This is the first clinic to offer EOD and dementia diagnoses and treatment in Israel.
The Rabin Medical Center Clinic has a waiting time of nearly a year for new patients. The new clinic, under the direction of Dr. Keret, should be able to help young patients obtain appointments (and treatment) faster.
In a recent meeting with Ezer Mizion, Dr. Keret shared a few facts and insights:
– Carriers of the APOE4 gene have a greater risk of developing EOD
– Most types of EOD are frontal-temporal
– EOD usually starts as complaints about behavioral or language changes and visual disorders. Classic memory issues only show up at later stages.
– If a language problem is detected early, working with a speech therapist can help delay deterioration.
– Alzheimer’s affects young patients differently than older patients since they are usually at the peak of their career or raising families.
– EOD has a high frequency of hereditary and familial cases.
Dr. Keret has offered to partner with Ezer Mizion and the Tzipporah Fried Alzheimer’s Support Center to promote a lobby for young dementia patients.
The Goal of the Young Alzheimer’s Patient Clinic at Rabin Medical Center
Alzheimer’s is the third leading cause of death in the Western world and a common cause of disability and illness. Alzheimer’s is usually thought of as a disease of the elderly, but about 5% of cases in Israel are diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 65. According to the Israeli Ministry of Health and the European Union, there are about 6,000 cases of EOD in the country. However, only 200 EOD patients are monitored in clinics—about 4%.
Another challenge of EOD treatment is the under-diagnosis of the disease. Since EOD often presents itself in the form of behavioral or linguistic problems, and since Alzheimer’s is too often considered to be a disease that just afflicts the elderly, young patients aren’t always diagnosed correctly. Misdiagnosis can lead to expensive referrals and unnecessary diagnostic tests. Once the correct diagnosis is finally reached, treatment and genetic tests can be expensive. The latter is particularly important with EOD, since it has a large hereditary component.
A clinic that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of EOD in people below the age of 65 will address all of the above issues.
Dr. Keret’s primary goal will be to develop a dedicated service for EOD patients. His secondary goal will be to develop observational clinical research in EOD with a focus on genetic risk factors unique to the Israeli population. The research will be conducted in partnership with UCSF, the University of California San Francisco, and it will enable Rabin Medical Center to import new and innovative diagnostic methods that are not currently available in Israel. The Northern Charitable Foundation looks forward to continuing to support this wonderful initiative.