Rehab Insights is a weekly blog written by Burke Rehabilitation professionals to offer practical information for patients, families and the community. Its goal is to educate the reader on relevant topics in rehabilitation, general health and wellness.

Aging and Memory: How to Tell it's Time for an Evaluation

We’ve all had those moments when we find ourselves standing in the kitchen wondering why we walked in there in the first place.  Sometimes we misplace keys or forget the name of a new acquaintance. For most people, these periodic lapses in memory are just part of the aging process. For others, however, these lapses in memory become more pervasive and can be a sign of something more serious.

When does “normal memory loss” cross over and become a warning sign for potential memory problems?

“Initial signs begin when forgetful behavior becomes persistent and severe enough to interfere with a person’s functional ability,” Pasquale Fonzetti, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Memory Evaluation and Treatment Service (METS) at Burke Rehabilitation Hospital said. “It’s okay to forget your keys once in a while. It’s something different if you begin missing work because of it.”

Other potential red flags include:

  • Difficulty performing simple tasks like paying bills, maintaining hygiene, etc.
  • Getting lost in familiar and frequently visited places
  • Frequently repeating stories and phrases in the same conversation
  • Poor judgement and socially inappropriate behavior

If you or a loved one are showing signs of potential cognitive decline, Burke’s METS program can help. The program is staffed by leading neurologists and neuropsychologists who specialize in the assessment and treatment of memory disorders.

Dr. Fonzetti and his staff conduct detailed examinations that focus on memory problems, possible causes and specialized verbal and written testing. Services performed by the METS team include:

  • Pre-evaluation screening and intake
  • Detailed history with physical and neurological exams
  • Formal neuropsychological evaluation of cognitive function
  • Diagnostic neuroimaging (CT, MRI and PET scans)
  • Clinical laboratory screen to exclude reversible causes of cognitive decline
  • Caregiver assessment
  • Behavioral Evaluation and management
  • Routine neurological and neurobehavioral follow up
  • Referral to specialized services

Following evaluation, a family conference provides the opportunity to discuss the diagnosis and treatment options. The goal of treatment is to improve memory in some cases, or to slow the progression of memory loss with early treatment of disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

“What sets us apart is our team approach. Our team specializes in memory disorder so our plans for care are made by specialists with many, many years of experience,” Dr. Fonzetti said. “We also aim to care for the whole family. When we help the caregivers, we help the patients.”

Patients in the METS program may also be eligible to participate in one of Burke’s clinical trials as a form of treatment. These clinical trials, like our Benfotiamine trial for individuals with mild cognitive impairment or mild Alzheimer's disease dementia, aim to slow cognitive decline and/or treat associated symptoms. For more information about Burke’s Alzheimer’s and Dementia trials contact Rosanna Cirio at (914) 597-2476.

Burke Rehabilitation Hospital is a participating member of the Hudson Valley Alzheimer’s Disease Assistance Center (ADAC). The ADAC program provides assistance to Alzheimer’s disease patients and their caregivers.

A doctor’s referral is recommended to schedule an evaluation through the METS program, but calls from concerned family members, spouses and caregivers are always welcome. The fee for services may even be covered through Medicare.

The earlier you seek an assessment; the sooner a treatment plan may be put in place. Early detection is a key component of minimizing the impact these cognitive issues can have on daily life. To arrange for an evaluation and for information, call (914) 597-2307 or e-mail at

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Burke's Rehab Insights blog is intended to provide general information about rehabilitation and other health care topics. It should not take the place of medical care. Burke staff cannot comment on individual medical cases or give medical advice.

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