Alzheimer's Awareness: Why Bother?

Contributed by: Dennis Fortier, President, Medical Care Corporation

As you may have read elsewhere, November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. But surely, the public is already well aware of this horrible disease. After all, Alzheimer’s has directly affected approximately 1 in every 2 families and the others must have certainly noted its prominent coverage in the news. We don’t really need more awareness, right?

Wrong.

Some of the information below may surprise you. That is to say, it is information about which you are not presently aware. However, by merely learning the seven facts below you will be helping to reduce the Alzheimer’s problem. That’s right…making you aware of this information and encouraging you to share it with your social networks will facilitate a more informed and more effective approach to combating the threat we face from this disease.

First, here are a few facts and figures that you may already know. Alzheimer’s currently affects more than 5 million Americans and that number is likely to triple by 2050. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the USA and is climbing steadily in the rankings. Also, Alzheimer’s is the leading cause of dementia and accounts for about 65% of all dementia worldwide. These are all sobering facts but perhaps not new to your understanding.

7 Facts You Need To Know
Now, here are some points you may not know but should. It is the following information that I hope will stimulate discussion and promote a better understanding of the disease. With more discourse, we can begin to erode the lingering stigma that currently prevents some people with early symptoms from seeking timely medical attention.

1) We generally detect Alzheimer’s at the end-stage of the disease. On average, Alzheimer’s follows a 14-year course from the onset of the first symptoms until death. There is some variability across patients but 14 years is pretty typical. The more surprising news is that, on average, we diagnose Alzheimer’s in years 8-10 of that disease course. This means that for most patients, symptoms go undiagnosed and untreated for at least seven years, during which time the lesions spread through the brain and cause irreparable damage. Please be aware that we diagnose Alzheimer’s disease far too late to optimize the effects of currently available treatments.

2) Memory loss is not a part of normal aging. The point about end-stage detection raises an obvious question about “why” we diagnose this disease so late. There are many contributing factors but most of them can be reduced through awareness and education. Some patients resist medical attention in the early stages because they fear a stigmatizing label or because they are misinformed to believe that Alzheimer’s cannot be treated. Many people, including a startling number of physicians, incorrectly believe that memory loss is a normal part of aging. Improving the timeliness of diagnoses for Alzheimer’s is, in many ways, a problem that can be addressed through awareness and education. Please be aware that memory loss is not a part of normal aging and, regardless of the cause of the memory loss, timely medical intervention is best.

3) Current Alzheimer’s drugs are probably more effective than you think. Our widespread practice of late detection has many negative consequences. For example, one of the reasons that current treatments are often deemed ineffective is because they are routinely prescribed for patients with end-stage pathology who already have massive brain damage. With earlier intervention, treatment can be administered to patients with healthier brains, many of whom will respond more vigorously to the recommended therapy. Yes, we need better treatments, but a great start would be to intervene earlier with the treatments we already have. Please be aware that currently approved treatments may be more effective than some headlines indicate.

4) Alzheimer’s disease can be treated. Another treatment related concept about which everyone should be aware is this. Preventing or slowing further brain damage is preferable to letting the damage spread without constraint. Yet, many physicians, patients, and caregivers conclude that any treatment short of a cure is not worthwhile. While today it is true that we have no cure for Alzheimer’s, that does not mean there is no treatment. With a good diet, physical exercise, social engagement, and certain drugs, many patients (especially those detected at an early stage) can meaningfully alter the course of Alzheimer’s and preserve their quality of life. Please be aware that “we have no cure” does not mean “there is no treatment”.

5) The Alzheimer’s drug pipeline is full. Here’s another fact of which you should be aware. Through an intense research effort over the past twenty years, scientists have gained a lot of insight about Alzheimer’s disease mechanisms and about other factors that increase the risk for the disease. Much has been learned and some very promising drugs, based on sound theoretical approaches, are in FDA clinical trials right now. While much of the disease remains shrouded in mystery and we may still be a long way from better treatments, it is possible that an effective agent is already in the pipeline. Please be aware that, although we don’t know when, better treatments for Alzheimer’s are certainly on the way.

6) Taking good care of your heart will help your brain stay healthy. Know this; the health of your brain is very closely tied to the health of your body, particularly your heart. Researchers have shown conclusively that high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and obesity all confer greater risk for cognitive decline. The mechanisms that keep oxygen rich blood flowing through your body play a key role in maintaining a healthy brain. Everyone should be aware about the close association between vascular health and cognitive health. Please be aware that maintaining good vascular health will help you age with cognitive vitality.

7) Managing risk factors may delay or prevent cognitive problems later in life. There are well-identified risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease that are within our power to manage. These include diabetes, head injuries, smoking, poor diet, lethargy, and isolation. With greater awareness of these facts, we can imagine a world where diabetics take more care to control their blood sugar, where helmets are more prevalent in recreational activities that are likely to cause head trauma, where people smoke less and eat more fruits and vegetables, and where everyone makes a better effort to exercise and to stay socially engaged on a regular basis. While these facts may not be well known, they are all well proven. Galvanizing an effort to publicize them is one purpose of National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. Please be aware that many risk factors for Alzheimer’s can be actively managed to reduce the likelihood of cognitive decline.

So why bother with Alzheimer’s awareness? Because it is a terrible disease poised to ravage our aging society and the lack of education and awareness has lead to a stigma that prevents a more proactive approach to early intervention. The result is that we diagnose it too late, which hampers the efficacy of available treatments. A more educated public could manage risk factors to minimize the likelihood of Alzheimer’s, could monitor personal cognitive health with greater vigilance, and could seek medical attention at the earliest sign of decline. Physicians could then diagnose problems earlier and prescribe appropriate treatment including diet, exercise, and drugs to slow disease progression as much as possible. In the end, we could have fewer cases, more effective treatment, slower progression, higher quality of life, and lower healthcare costs. The social, emotional, and fiscal benefits of awareness and education in this area are too large to quantify.

By reading this article, you have increased your understanding of the problem and raised your awareness about what can be done. That is a great step in the right direction but you can do one thing more. You can help to spread this message.

In the spirit of National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, please share this article with your friends to promote more widespread awareness. Post it to your Facebook page, mark it in Delicious, Tweet it, Digg it, or email it. It doesn’t matter how you do your part, it only matters that you get it done.

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A better understanding and more awareness of Alzheimer's related issues can impact personal health decisions and generate significant impact across a population of aging individuals. Please use the share button below to spread this educational message as widely as possible.

81 comments :

  1. It would help to have more specific information on symptoms by which to identify Alzheimer's

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  2. I have discussed my memory problems with two physicans in the past. I best return to one of them with this article and see what he says to me today because I received no indication that there was help available.

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  3. What about heredity? DNA research to identify those at higher risk? Does studying music, language, crossword puzzels, etc., to "exercise" the brain help to reduce the symptons or prevent the onset of Alzheimer's. And, what should individuals ask their doctors during annual physicals? What tests can be included in the yearly exam for early detection and subsequent treatment?

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  4. What are the early symptoms of the disease? The article would have been more helpful if it included information on early symptoms.

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  5. Thank you for the information. I found it very informative. My father died from Alzheimer's and I want to do what I can to avoid it. I appreciate the information on what we can do to delay/avoid it.

    I was surprised to learn that memory loss is not a part of the normal aging process.

    Keep up the good work! mqb

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  6. This disease is not a tolerance of aging but a collection of symtoms and warnings. Age group need greater awareness and not treat it as a death sentence. Be strong, healthy and wise in acting while there may be still time to treat the dangers. Learn the signs be compassionate.

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  7. My husband is 75 years old. His mother had alzheimers. I think he has shown symptoms of dementia for several years. I mentioned it to him 2 years and he said no way. Even now he tells me how sharp his mind is...like his dad's was (never mentions his mothers). However just yesterday he made a hotel reservation & came to me to get our area code...then our street address & then our zip code. So how does one get someone like that to get checked??? He has had many many different situations where things are not right...I can plainly see it. Sometimes I think he does too...but does not think I notice.

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  8. Just to let you know, I will be having a brain scan tomorrow for Alzheimer's. I have noticed that my short term memory is not good anymore. Thank you for the updates. pam

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  9. At times, I can not think of the best word to use, stare into space. have no energy at home, do not want to bathe or keep house, and do not want to cook. I feel good to go out to eat, play cards, go shopping, and I still pay my bills and make decisions on my finances. Is this a sign of getting old or other. I am 76 and have led an active life, but could sit all day in my house and read, eat, or sleep. Help, please.

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  10. Where can I find the answers to the above questions?

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  11. I finally found a physician that would treat the patient with these symptoms, my husband. He has been on the medication for almost a year and it does seem to help however, very expensive. There is not much information for the caregiver and they may also be the person in need of help as it is very frustrating to stay the course and be firm in any caregiving situation. By the way the brain scan didn't show any sign of Alzheimers. However, dementia showed up in his Mother, Dad and Brother all have passed away. My husband is 84 and these last couple of months have really been a strain on our lives. He is not a wanderer or unable to remember where we live however, for a very knowledgeable professional person he is having major problems using a cell phone or remembering who called or why they called. Some photographs of close friends he does not recognize. He is starting to question why he is taking some medication and he is starting to back off any form of socialization. I do most of the driving, however I really worry about his access to his truck and driving when I am not with him. I try to discourage any driving on his behalf. This is a very stressful situation for any caregiver because they see you as the bad guy, much like raising kids again. There is 19 years difference in our ages. All I can do is be firm in my efforts and try not to take some of the verbal abuse, that just seems to pop up from nowhere, to heart. He has admitted to his Dr that he is getting frustrated with the length of time it is taking him to process things and react to them. I sure hope that someone reading this and recognizing strange actions or comments to be persistent and get help for your loveone. Don't ignore these signs, find a Dr that will treat you and your loveone, like you are not crazy or over reacting. dat

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  12. My mother had alzheimers for 6 years until she had to move into a nursing home. I dread the day, already that if catches up with me,too. She was miserable for years, and lost her dignity and said and did all sorts of unexpected things, to harm herself. I have times when I am talking and forget what I'm talking about. It is so embarrusing. I hope a cure is found soon.

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  13. Thank you all so much for the time and interest that you all spend to help others. Life can be devestated when alzheimers takes over your once well and happy life. Thanks for all you do.

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  14. I agree that we need to be made aware of some of the early onset symptoms of Alzheimers. Can you provide these? How can you whether behavior is dementia or early Alzheimers? Thanks very much for the information you did supply. You learn something new every day.

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  15. In reading the artical, I kept waiting for some info on what to look for in early onset. My Dad was diganosed with Alzheimers, He died at 87, and my Mom with Dementia, died at 99. I am 79and inside I feel like 19, should I worry???

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  16. I am 71 years old; was diagnosed with the early stages of alzheimer's disease (Mild Cognitive Impairment) several years ago. The first hurdle one must clear is DENIAL. Actively seek help from the proper medical source-there are doctors who deal specifically with the problem. THERE ARE SEVERAL MEDS THAT ONE CAN TAKE THAT SLOW THE DISEASE.

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  17. I must take issue with #2 -- "Memory loss is not a part of normal aging." HELLO!!!! Are you serious? As a mid-60s woman who has known and currently knows many, many individuals -- both men and women -- my age through age 97, I beg to differ with you. Do you never talk with anyone 60 years of age or older? Do you have no friends or acquaintances that age or older? The only thing that makes me feel I AM aging normally is that no one my age or older can remember what they had for breakfast! Goodness, wherever did you come up with that statistic???

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  18. I have always wondered about heart disease and the connection to alzheimer's. My grandmother had some heart difficulty at age 87 and soon after had alzheimer's. My father, had a quadruple bi-pass and HAS NOT been diagnosed with alzheimer's but he has been put on medication. He is the same as he was 5 years ago with no signs of the disease. He exercises 5 days a week at the gym (he is 78).

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  19. Your article is wonderful, however you excluded much information as to causes, etc. Some Alzheimer's/dementia is caused by medicines or combination of medicines people take; some from head trauma. I learned recently from a nurse in a nursing home that "every" Alzheimer's patient they have is, or has been, a heavy smoker! Also, every respected medical researcher published states that certain memory loss IS a normal part of aging. All the body parts don't work as well as when people are younger, that includes the brain! Keep up the good work, but be careful about statements like "memory loss is not a normal part of aging." You probably just scared your readers and showed a lack of responsibility by making that statement.

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  20. I am 72 an this past Spring I thought I had the dreaded "A" desease. I paralled many of the symptoms I read in the other comments: energy depleted, wake up several times at night, poor memory, groggy most of the day, could sleep standing up, could not remember what I had just said, and had difficulty remembering names of my extended family.
    Medical tests found Central Apnea to be my condition. NO Alzheimers!
    I'm now on a breathing machine and my health and my life has returned to almost normal.
    My recommendation: Don't diagnose yourself; Pester your Doctor!

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  21. For caregivers out there, I found a great book called, "The 36 Hour Day" by Nancy Mace, M.A. and Peter Rabins, M.D., M.P.H. It helpd me get through dealing with my mother-in-law's Alzheimers. It gives you information on how to deal with the patient in different situations and how to copy yourself. I'd recommend it to anyone dealing with Alzheimers, dementia, or other memory loss. Remember, you are not alone AND you can't get through it alone and stay sane. You need to take care of yourself to care for them.

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  22. Thank you for this information and comments. Interesting. Both my parents had A and I am the youngest of 5. We are all concerned and dread the possibility of getting it ourselves. Truth is I am not inclined to want someone to tell me I am getting it. I'd rather just do all I can to keep it away.

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  23. Please visit www.nationalsilveralert.com where you can find some wonderful resources and also a Free registration program for anyone with Alzheimers or any other cognitive disease.

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  24. My mother had alzheimers but died from cancer. She had heart surgery which accerated the disease. The nurse on the floor said " she was not given oxygen at the correct flow during the surgery which could have caused brain damage. My mother was never the same. The desease does not accerate in just a few days. I wish I had ask the doctor but I didn't I thought it was part of the recovery.

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  25. How young is too young to have the beginnings of Alzheimers/Dementia? I am 48 years old and when I speak with my doctor about how I struggle with my short-term memory the response I get is I'm too young to have Alzheimers. My children get agrivated because I'll ask them if they've done their homework or what time their coming home from work and a couple of hours later, I'm asking them the same question because I don't remember what their responses were. At work, I have to write everything down because by the time I get back to my desk, I've forgotten what was requested of me. I find myself at a loss of words and even pronounce words incorrectly. My father is 83 years old and my mother is 79 and they both have Alzheimers. My father's sister passed away in her 70's from Alzheimers.

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  26. I don't see anyplace where you are answering these questions, the answers would be very important to read. Where can we find them?

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  27. So there is no such thing as short term memory loss. Boy I am in trouble. Now what do I do? I thought it was just a sign of aging, now you say that is not the case.This is something else I have to worry about. I am 73.

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  28. My Dad had memory loss due to mild TIA's. It certainly mimics Alzheimer's. He died at 84 after 5 yrs of decline. He used to say he felt like he had "cobwebs" in his head. My Mother & her siblings all have had coronary artery disease. They did quadruple by-pass on her at age 80 which I questioned the sense of as she already had 60% occulusion in her carotids. I fault the doctors for pushing this and she really never mentally recovered. 11 yrs later, no mind but still living at 91. Two of her 3 brothers all developed dementia following by-pass and died at 91 & 77. One 85 yr old brother had carotid's cleaned out prior to by-pass and is still sane. Doctors do not communicate properly with patients and other doctors. Ugh!

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  29. Here is a link that will give you some of the answers you are looking for and as I said before if you visit the home page there are many resources available to you.

    http://nationalsilveralert.com/pdf/Dementia-Alzheimers.pdf

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  30. When it comes to our Health or the Health of our loved-ones we must take a Pro-Active roll. The more informed you become of the Diesease the better you will be able to protect yourself and your loved-ones.

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  31. Dear Anonymous, Find a new doctor or see a neurologist. It is possible to have AD at a "young" age. My mom had Alzheimer's and when she was in an assisted living residence, there was a man 55 years old with AD also living there. He had been fluent in 4 languages and a Prof. at the Univ. of PA., but at age 55 could no longer communicate.

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  32. Thank you so much for telling the truth. I am going to be a senior in about 5 years and I distinctly remember my own grandmother who was 105 when she died. She was in good health, without any prescription drugs, and really only had a light stroke two months before her transition. However, she never had any memory loss. So, yes, memory loss has nothing to do with age. We've created this effect through our like of wisdom in our modern life-style. Thank you so much for contributing to our deeper understanding that allows us to "reverse" our expectations in life.

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  33. My mother, her mother and moms 5 siblings all had Alzheimers and all are gone except 1 brother and he is in the nursing home with it. My siblings are all worried about it also. We are late 50's, and 60's. I feel like I walk in a daze alot of days, not a clear mind, forget names, walk into the other room & forgot what I went for. Is this natural or Alz?

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  34. Found the article informative in a general way. Needed more specific information on: how early to start testing for desease since it is not normally found until after 8-10 years, what medicines are currently being used and for what degree of desease,what are the tests that are given to check everything out, how does diabetes bring this condition on or does it make it more severe more quickly to name a few questions that I have. Another article with more specifics is necessary if it can be done.

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  35. My Dad has been diagnosed with Altzheimers and dementia He was doing quite well. He has been taking Altzheimers meds for over 2 years it seemed to be helping...He was in the hospital, ICU with influenzia and them placed on a floor as he continued his recovery...I found out they did not give him his altzheimers meds for 10 days...When my Dad first came around from the sickness he knew none of us and didn't talk....I was very mad the doctor restarted his Altsheimers meds --he doubled it and my Dad began to come out of his little world...He began to know people and talk...I believe the meds really work. Now I just want everyone to stop saying he is not going to come back with his physical therapy for walking. I believe he will begin to walk again..and I will stand by my beliefs--To God Be The Glory....

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  36. The article included valuable information but was not as comprehensive as many readers would have liked. There were also no additional websites offered by your service for readers to visit for more detailed information. A site like yours naturally invites questions from readers and it is a disservice to not either offer answers or indicate that no answers to qustions would be provided. I appreciate your website and ask that in future mailings you provide detailed information on Alzheimers Disease, it's possible causes,symptoms and treatments.

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  37. I suspected my husband had Alzheimer's for two years before I could get him to go to the doctor. The way I finally got him to go was I told him I thought I had Alzheimer's and I wanted to go to be tested and I wanted him to go with me and be tested too so I could be sure he did not have it. This got him to the doctor and into treatement. I know now he had it for at least 5 maybe up to 10 years before he was diagnosed. I thought he had just changed in his intelligence and ability to reason when he made several very bad decisions which have cost us dearly over the years. I do not know how they would have diagnosed him earlier. The questions they ask you intially are things that people know long after they have Alzheimer's. He was in what I thought were the very early stages when he was diagnosed 1 1/2 years ago but has declined rapidly. He has been on Aricept and Namenda most recently. He was on Exelon Patch but developed an allergy to the adhesive. I think he did better on the Exelon patch and Namenda. When I asked the doctor about Exelon in pill form he said it is not effect like the patch that he has tried it on many patients and it just doesn't work. Since our Neurologist lost his mother to Alzheimer's he is probably more aware than most about what works. I hope this helps you. We all need all the help and prayers we can get. God Bless you and heal your loved one. Janet

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  38. My dad had Alzheimer's and his physical health was great - cholesterol level of 100(!), BP 115/70, lots of exercise, lean and muscular. It was a long decline before anyone would diagnose what I knew was true. Here's what I want to know - can you take the medications before a diagnosis to stave off the start of the illness? I sure would jump at the chance rather than slowly lose my mind.

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  39. Smoking is certainly a risk factor, but my husband's aunt has finally had to be placed into a nursing home for Alzheimer's, and she never smoked and appeared to be in good health until this awful disease took over.

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  40. My mother recently died from alzheimer's...It is a horrible disease and I found that all and all there is still so much we do not know about the diesease. My mother lived with me for nearly 4 years and during that time I watched her seem to fade away. Many of the things I was told to look for never happened. I was single and alone with my mother 24/7 and I journaled the experience and have written a book about it..Backyard Musings of an Organic Dabbler...which will be out soon. My mother even though she had alzheimer's packed a lot of good living into those last years.

    I think her beginning signs were probably confusing because she was always a loner and never went out a lot...as I look back I see that this was one of the warning signs when she started having my brother (who lived next door )do the grocery shopping all the time...and then she always seemed to have company every time I called her from Florida...her company was her reflection in the mirrors, windows, etc. this was going on even though she really acted fine and could carry on a good conversation. Then she stated to make up stories, cut up her clothes (she was a seamstress so we never caught this signal). She would forget things at times and did not like to go outside at times. When I visited my mother right before having to put her in a nursing home(which did not work out) there were cans of urine all over the place, she had on about 5 layers of clothing and was in need of a good head washing. Easily angered, frustrated and frightened. She in her own way knew something was happening to her and discussed it with me...She had her lucid moments where she spoke right up until about a week or so before her death. Her body just seemed to break down gradually, she finally could not walk, then did not have proper elimination, got urine infections all the time, felt agitated, did not like the food I was feeding her and finally had no tastes for her sweets that she dearly loved. I will not go into all the details here..use your imagination...Finally she forgot how to swallow and already had decided no feeding tube.
    At this point she lived about a week. She was under the hospice care and living with me...we did many things to try and keep her as comfortable as possible. It was obvious that she could hear my voice even when she could no longer communicate with me ...she could not move or speak in those last days...She handled her illness very well and was a very brave little woman....When she died my daughter and I with her and a hospice nurse in the room...We sang to her and petted her as she slowing left for her great adventure. I am so thankful I kept her with me and was there for her in her last moments..I think that it is very important to be with our loved ones when they are leaving. The overall experience has changed my whole perception about death and dying. I will be forever grateful to the Hudson, Florida Hospice for being my support system as I was relatively new to that area and had no close family or friends that I could run to for help...everyone was long distance. Bobbi Henderson http://4yourhealth.wordpress.com

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  41. I agree with the above statements. I have gone through times of feeling like I was really losing my mind, but recognized that the extreme I was experiencing was due to the lost of my son and how the grief played a major factor. I am 67 yrs now. I have taken Remminal, not sure of sp.Now the dr. has me on Galantamine ER 16mg. I can tolerate the 16mg, when I moved up to 24mg, it made me so nausea I could not continue to take it. My Grandmother on my Mothers side died in her 80's after not knowing anyone for 2-3 yrs. My Mother died at 98 yrs with her memory. My sister is 80 yrs. and now in full blown Alzheimers. Does it skip a generation? Since my sister has it, is this what I have to look forward to? Everyone is right, questions regarding early warning signs are desparately needed.

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  42. Both my parents died of Alzheimers Disease at
    age 93. I am now 74 & don't remember things as
    well as I used to. I live in fear of developing
    AD. Will it help to see if I have the AD protien
    in my blood?

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  43. My husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer's at the young age of 56. He passed away June 15, 2009, age 63. I encourage those of you whose life has been touched to get as much help as possible. By this, I mean get involved with the Alzheimer's Association, attend related functions, and read everything you can get your hands on. Knowledge is power! Also seeing a therapist for those family members whose loved one is affected was very helpful to me. I wish you the best, it is a difficult, long road to travel.

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  44. I am 55 and terrified that I'm losing it to AD. This is spooky. Are we ignoring AD until its too late to save money?
    My Dad is 82 and can not be left alone. His Mom passed away at 96 after 10 years of not knowing anyone by sight.
    I'm told I'm too young to be thinking about this but I amd constantly wondering why I can't remember as well as I used to. Am I going to be able to work for another 7-14 years? Where do I go? Who do I talk to?

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  45. giftfromtheheart1@yahoo.comNovember 6, 2009 at 10:26 AM

    I agree with many of the statements regarding Alzheimer's. My husband and I have been caring for my 79 year old father for 5 years. We noticed a decline in his social lifestyle and personal appearance. He retired at the age of 62 shortly after the passing of my mother at the age of 57 from lung cancer. He just stopped enjoying life and socializing with family and friends. He was a hard worker, father of six working in the field of construction. I remember being told my father was struck in the head by a falling object that split his hard hat. He came out of it OK., but I wonder now. Years later he was hospitalized due to a nervous breakdown, later diagnosed as schizophrenia. My mother would sometimes say mental illness ran in my father's family. He has a sister now in the final stages of Alzheimers who is now confined in a hospital with a 4th stage bed sore. My dad developed the disease much earlier than his sibling and his health is declining at a much slower pace. He is not taking any medications other than 2 pills a day for type 2 diabetes. The meds affected his walking and made matters worse. We changed his diet and placed him on natural herbs. We have no problems with sun downing at nights, after dinner he is given (1) 500 mg. valerian root tablet and I take one for a restful sleep. YES, I WORRY ABOUT GETTING THIS AWFUL DISEASE..IT IS VERY STRESSFUL BEING A CAREGIVER 24/7. A TIP IS TO KEEP YOUR MIND ACTIVE WITH OUTSIDE SOCIAL ACTIVIES, JOIN A SUPPORT GROUP, MOVIES,PUZZLES, READING,DOMINOS, CARD GAMES, AND EXERCISE KEEPING THE BLOOD FLOWING..

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  46. in 50's I had hard time driving - now after taking many supplements am doing fine in 60's -

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  47. My husband is 71, and was diagnosed 4 years ago, but I saw subtle signs of Alzheimer's many years before that, he's in the mid stage of the disease.. He's been on a double dose of Aricept and takes Namenda for 4 years. The medication has slowed the progression and given us some good years.

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  48. Friends of mine say that dementia and alzheimer's disease is the same thing. I disagree, but having read the information about alzheimer's being undetected in the early stages, I am wondering whether it is more important to help my mom--who is having trouble remembering things at age 71--by minimalizing her panic, saying "we all forget things," or by encouraging her to be scanned, at the risk of her panicking about alzheimer's.

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  49. Thank you for this information. My dad was
    78 when he passed, diagnosed with alzheimers,
    I didn't know that it could kill. And now I
    believe what the doc put on the d cert.

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  50. I've read that one of the early symptoms of Alzheimers is the loss of the ability to smell lemon. I make a point to smell every lemon I come into contact with!

    I don't think one should take for granted what Mr. Fortier states about memory loss not being normal with age. I read just the other day that memory cells begin to decline at age 14! Obviously, someone is confused.

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  51. Please Visit www.nationalsilveralert.com for more compehensive informative information on Alzheimers and other cognitive disorders.

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  52. I am a 53 y.o. married female. No children, no family . I only have my husband. This past summer-July of '09, three months ago, I started forgetting where I placed things like house keys in the house or if at a store, forgetting my cane or shopping bag in a dressing room. If distracted in the hallway of my building, I easily forget if I locked my front door before heading to the elevator. I was given a referral for extra blood work up in August to give to my family doctor but it wasn't until this month Novemeber that I followed up and I will be getting an MRI of the brain with contrast soon. I decided to face the possiblilities, especially since I do not feel confident after speaking with my spouse that he will be hanging around if I get a positive diagnosis. I feel I must know asap so I can make my own arrangements while I still can. However I did learn from the Altheimer association that not all memory loss is a dx of Altzheimer/dementia-that It could also be the result of a thyroid imbalance that could mimick the symptoms. I am hoping for the best but mentally preparing for the worst. Please post any comments, helpful info etc. Thanks

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  53. First, how healing it feels for so many to have expressed themselves so genuinely since this 'shared emoting' is key to finding the necessary understanding, compassion, and forgiveness when facing the loss of a loved one during such 'personality disappearing' illness. There is a difference between dementia and Alzheimer's as classic dementia finds the person losing themselves sans the self-awareness as they quietly drift into their inner world, and with Alzheimer's, the person is more self-aware [in early stages] so as to make excuses or try to cover for why they have forgotten something, plus, depending on their constitutional nature from early coping skills in childhood with either fear or anger as the primary emotion, this is why those with Alzheimer's are often those who are outwardly frustrated, anxious, defensive and/or combative. I saw the fearfulness component in the beginning of the last five years of my mom-in-law's life who died at age 79 after being a health conscious woman who had never smoked, yet she had used aluminum cookware for years and did have a mouth full of dental amalgams [50% mercury/other metals] plus, [unbelievably] she had been on Estrogen hormone replacement well into her early 70's. After weeks of cognitive testing, the neurologist staff at a large area hospital determined that she had Alzheimer's [short of doing autopsy] and yet this was a woman who had graduated at the top of her class as a Phi Beta Kappa from Northwestern University. In my opinion, Alzheimer's is an "environmentally-acquired" illness that can be thwarted by avoidance of aluminum cookware, amalgam fillings, smoking, repeat flu vaccines [mercury/aluminum/formaldehyde as together, all become neuro-toxins], poisonous chemicals [pesticides/rocket fuel/diesel/pharmaceuticals], and fluoride in public municipality drinking water. Then, to counter the aging effects when the no longer prime body is slowing down, there is a major need for supplemented anti-oxidants like hormone-like Vitamin D-3 [brain/immune system/bones], Vitamin C [humans don't make own], CoQ10 [major heart/brain/liver/all tissues support], Grape Seed Extract [research in Nov 2008 revealed how this OPC can not only prevent development of Amyloid Beta plaque, but in some, so can it destroy what's already been laid down as was confirmed by MRI] the Omega 3's [Fish Oil/Flax Seed/Krill as fuel for brain/heart], the herb Curcumin [from Turmeric] and others...as all serve to lower both the systemic and organ-specific "inflammation" which when seriously elevated is THE most problematic aspect behind all diseases, including Alzheimer's. We need to keep our body pH on the alkaline side and both the daily antioxidants as well as high intake of organic vegetables can do this. Since this too, addresses some of the stated concerns, our family is now focused on my 95 year old dad's almost 93 year old wife who, like one reader shared about her mom after surgery, has not been the same [has worse memory loss] since she suffered a Stress-induced Cardiomyopathy event [aka Broken Heart Syndrome] which was initiated by intermittent hypoglycemia [low blood sugar] and since this did see her almost flat line twice, I believe that she also suffered from momentary hypoxia or low brain oxygen. As I have learned, this has been considered a rare event [most often affects hormone-deficient postmenopausal women and more in ninth decade] or, is incorrectly called a heart attack when in actually it is a 'heart stunning' due to life-threatening elevation of the major stress hormones like Adrenaline and Epinephrine which incites pro-inflammatory Catecholamines that not only almost collapsed her heart, but via the increased memory loss, has also obviously injured the hippocampus area of her brain which is where short term memories are made. Needless to say, lots to know while I'm sure you can see how I AM a believer in 'self-education and proactive prevention' so as to achieve the best and ongoing reality of health and vitality. Take real good care of yourselves as I sincerely applaud you all.

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  54. My husband and I are both 64 and his 90-yr old mother is in the Alzheimer's unit of a top-of-the line nursing facility. She does not recognize any of us any more, but remains pleasant when we visit. Her ten-yr older brother died with Alzh. when he was in his early 70s, as did their mother, who was close to 80. Did I mention that none of these folks were ever a pound overweight, lean and active, golfers into old age? No smoking or fatty foods, lots of hiking etc. They were Christian Scientists, too, and disapproved of emotional explosions and religious/political arguments and angry outbursts. It became kind of a game for my husband as a little boy to try and get his mother to get mad at him as he would misbehave at the dinner table every night.

    Interestingly, my overweight father-in-law, former managing partner of a big law firm, had congestive heart failure for yrs, was a sarcastic SOB to his sons, not very nice to his wife with whom he did not have much in common, altho he remained loyal and faithful, but he remained sharp as a tack mentally until a week or so before he died at ninety several years ago. My mother taught ballet several times a week until she was 75, wore a size ten dress and loved stylish shoes, but declined rapidly after my father died and she came to live with us in a new state (for her). My children were under six yrs old and would bring Grandma back home after she had wandered off. She did not look old, had the good figure and dark brown hair, not typical of an eighty yr old. She also layered on the clothes and coats, wore hats and gloves inside and sat by the window looking out and saying that "they are coming to pick me up"; "who" is coming we first said, and of course, no one was. Sad. But she would sulk if we pointed this out to her and go upstairs and not have dinner. (The autopsy after her death showed the brain plaque indicating Alz.) Thing is, as most of the people posting here have noticed, the Alz sufferer will forget in less than five minutes what all the fuss is about. Do not waste your breath disputing what they say. It is just frustrating for all. Just get them in the car and go to the doctor. If necessary lie and say you are going to get some ice cream. My husband and I kid each other, wondering which of us will develop this. Maybe both. He smokes heavily and I am overweight and overdo the alcohol intake from time to time. So does he. I keep my brain active by volunteering in a number of different efforts and by staying politically active and up-to-date; my husband says he can never retire, needs the money as what investments we had have been wiped out. Not complaining, just a fact. Economically, his parents were in the upper class, so in a way they were protected and could go to expensive (non-Medicaid) facilities for care. This will not be true for us as we get closer to the old-age horizon coming up quickly.

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  55. My wife has recently been diagnosed with AD and, in retrospect, I can trace her mental deterioration back about six years. The onset of AD is not readily recognised and by the time it becomes evident many people give up and think that nothing can be done about it. Not true! Please look at(Google "coconut oil and ketones") the research done by Dr.Veech since 2001, and recent findings by Dr.Mary Newport, whose husband has AD and has been researching appropriate therapies for several years. It would seem that AD, like diabetes, is the result of dietary problems that result in insulin resistance. This, in turn prevents the brain from using its primary fuel, glucose, and causes the brain to progressively atrophy. However, there is an alternative fuel that can be used by the brain called ketone bodies/ketoacids. These are derived from medium chain triglycides(MCTs), normally found in the form of MCT oil or its precursor, coconut oil. Dr.Newport has found (and I can confirm,by personal observation) that supplementing the diet of an AD patient with either substance results in an almost immediate improvement in cognition, social awareness, and general social demeanor. You won't ever get back to pre-AD onset mental capability but the improvement is startling, to say the least. This therapy does not appear to be very well known but it is amazingly inexpensive and just as effective as most fo the drug therapes that are currently prescribed.

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  56. Your article was informative,but it didn't give any symptoms or medications to slow it from taking hold of your mind. I'm 67 and have been on medication for dementia for at leat 10 years. My mother died with dementia. I had to insist my doctor give me medication for dementia. I can't remember why I opened the frig, why I've walked down the hall way. I have to retract my steps. I can't remember peoples names. My doctor said this was normanl for my age. It isn't. Although I've been on medication for this long for dementia, I still have all the systems, even with me working out for 1 hr a day and watch what I eat. I feel like if I come off the medications, the desease would hasten and I want be able to remember my families names or faces. You need to let people know the different medications you can take to hopefully slow this desease down.

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  57. Answers (perhaps) to a couple of the questions I've seen:

    "At times, I can not think of the best word to use, stare into space. have no energy at home, do not want to bathe or keep house, and do not want to cook. I feel good to go out to eat, play cards, go shopping, and I still pay my bills and make decisions on my finances. Is this a sign of getting old or other. I am 76 and have led an active life, but could sit all day in my house and read, eat, or sleep. Help, please."

    Please talk to your doctor about DEPRESSION -- it is frequently seen in older patients, looks rather like dementia, but is VERY TREATABLE! My mom is doing much better since starting an anti-anxiety/anti-depressant medicine, and enjoying more!

    "How young is too young to have the beginnings of Alzheimers/Dementia? I am 48 years old and when I speak with my doctor about how I struggle with my short-term memory the response I get is I'm too young to have Alzheimers. My children get agrivated because I'll ask them if they've done their homework or what time their coming home from work and a couple of hours later, I'm asking them the same question because I don't remember what their responses were. At work, I have to write everything down because by the time I get back to my desk, I've forgotten what was requested of me. I find myself at a loss of words and even pronounce words incorrectly. My father is 83 years old and my mother is 79 and they both have Alzheimers. My father's sister passed away in her 70's from Alzheimers."

    Talk with your doctor about HORMONE LEVELS -- I've been more & more frustrated with my own memory issues, but my gyn assures me that "(my) brain will come back" when I get to the other side of menopause -- as long as I get enough SLEEP!

    (I must admit I have not read all the comments o this site, so I apologize if this is all repetitious.)

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  58. I believe I have been in information overload for many years now. I'm 61, still work doing a job online, on the computer. I am also an information hound. I am currently reading a book called "The Overflowing Brain" which confirms my suspicion of memory overload. In my "younger" years I could remember a lot more but back then I didn't even really need to remember my social security number as no one asked for it. Now, I have an 8 1/2 x 11" spreadsheet of "pin" numbers for everything from banking, email addresses to paying property taxes online to God only knows what else. Memory loss? Nope, just memory overload for me. And I doubt I'll die from that. I've also read where possibly 5% of all "alzheimers" could be Jacob Kreutzfeld disease, i.e., mad cow. However doctor's can't tell what's going on until they autopsy and do brain slices. I'm wondering what Alzheimer's really is???

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  59. The statement (2) about some memory loss not being part of growing older is simply absurd. Everyone I know has experienced some memory loss after 60 or so. I can only conclude this is a "pitch" for signing up for your Alzeimer's testing.

    Anonymou
    s

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  60. Several of you have commented that more information about early signs and symptoms would be helpful. Here is a link to that information: http://braintoday.blogspot.com/2009/05/10-signs-of-alzheimers.html

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  61. I am 77 and have no apparent early signs of Alx, (although I am told I have ADD) however as a preemtive strike I have had check ups with a board certified cardidologist every six months for many years. I take a statin in low dosage a beta blocker and aspirin daily - have not smoked for over 45 years and excercise regularly. It seems to me that any informed person will take such steps to maximize their life expectancy. It would make sense to be checked for cancer as well. Anyone who takes a passive approach to disease prevention can expect surprises.

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  62. Another set of comments I want to address have questioned whether or not memory loss is a part of normal aging. Because many illnesses and medical conditions that impair memory are prevalent as we age, many elders do in fact suffer from impaired memory. However, this does not mean that memory loss is normal, it means that it is common. The point is that the loss is caused by some underlying condition that should be treated. Many of the causes can be completely treated and memory function will return. Other causes can only be managed to prevent or slow further decline. Here is a partial list of known medical conditions that impair memory: depression, subtle strokes and other vascular conditions, thyroid disorders, vitamin deficiencies, metabolic changes, and some medicines. The point of the article is to make people aware of some widely believed myths (like memory loss is a normal part of growing older) so that they can seek help and live a healthier life.

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  63. I am presently dealing with 2 parents that both have dementia. My father received an Alz. label sometime this past year. He also had a short term memory loss overnight just as his mother did. (vascular problem?) He is on serequil. This has caused problems with parkinsonism (parkinson's type symptoms like tremor in the hands, weakness in the legs where he can hardly walk, zombie like behavior.) The same thing happened with risperdol. He is being threatened with getting kicked out of the assisted living facility because he has hit others. Mom is confused at times but is not ready for a nursing home. Dad is frantic when he is not able to be with mom. We have got to get this medicine finely tuned or find something else to stop his aggressiveness. His doctor and nurses have tried for several months. Help-I just don't know what to do. Can they really force him out of assised living?

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  64. Thank you for an excellent article, Mr. Fortier.
    My question in all this becomes: if there are tests to detect Alzheimer's and Dementia, what is the impact going to be with the insurance companies?
    If you don't have long term care insurance in place BEFORE you have had a diagnosis of Alzheimer's or dementia in place and then you attempt to get long term care insurance will you then have a 'pre-existing condition' that will exclude you from that type of coverage?
    Yes, I know that insurance is ultimately paid for by us all, but it at least gives you a choice when you need care of any kind. When you don't have coverage for heath needs you have no choice other than what is available via government sponsorship And please don't confuse things like the local clinic as being "free". It is NOT free - you have paid for the services offered there via your TAXES.

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  65. aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

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  66. My husband has been diagnosed as having early Alzheimer's Disease. A good resource is www.alz.org ( Alzheimer's Association) and also www.alzheimer's.org (Alz. Disease Education and Referral Center) when you are looking for early symptoms and through all the stages of this disease.

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  67. I am a 75 year old male who still enjoys snow skiing, trail biking, trout fishing and hiking up mtn. trails. I just retired from Engineering in a major airline 2 years ago. My mother died of Alzheimers (AD) at 91, after getting no lasting help from Aricept and Reminyl. Her little sister now is suffering from an advanced case of AD at 94.

    I appreciate the tip about coconut oil, ketones and MCT oil. I plan to check these out. For the past 3 years, I have taken sublingual B12 and DHEA daily for improved memory function. They seem to help maintain cognizance although I don't feel that I'm as sharp as I was several years ago. Also, I work cross word puzzles, Suduko's and Jumbles regularly and spend at least 2 hours a day playing challenging solitaire games on the computer. I firmly believe that a person should stay active, both mentally and physically, in order to remain sharp.


    About 25 years ago, I heard that excessive aluminum was found in the brains of AD victims during their autopsies. I then began using antacid tablets, deodorant, baking powder and cooking utensils, etc. that were aluminum free. My mother and her sister both had used some aluminum drinking "glasses" for about 40 years before they showed AD symptoms. They had also covered food with aluminum foil off and on. I believe that, since aluminum is very electrically conductive and may short out circuits in the brain, that may have had a lot to do with my mother's and my aunt's AD.

    May the Lord bless all of you who have commented on this serious subject. G.E.

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  68. I could not read all the comments, but I admire all the thoughtful comments that have been included by writers. I also kept looking for answers in the formal article. Minor. What they did best was to provide an easy-access forum for all the people who do know many things.
    50 years ago, my grandmother said people are so 'busy' nowadays, which doesn't give time to put something into the short nor long term memory. She said Think about where you put your keys, and do it each time. I also found out that when we have to "give in" to others' memory of what happened, that one has less confidence in their memory. For example, one spouse Is Always Right!!. The other gives in, so confidence is lost. Also, if one spouse doesn't supply the forgotten words, it helps one's memory. If one spouse always knows what the other spouse thinks he is saying, it does not help his memory, but he gets along well for another many years, because it apparently isn't Alzheimers. If there is some forgetfulness of words, it helps to be kind when trying to help with the possible word.
    All the comments from the commenting persons regarding health were much more help than, Eat right and exercise, which everyone says, but many can't get started on, especially diet, when one was raised with what they thought was a good diet.

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  69. "My life changed overnight" is a common comment offered by persons who are given the diagnosis of Alzheimer's and also by their primary family caregivers. I know, for I was given that very diagnosis. As happens to so many others, I plunged into a depression, which had to be addressed with professional help. With the assistance of some wonderful "fellow travellers" in an Alzheimer's Society support group, I also addressed the central issues of loss we all faced and our shared sense of grief.
    At that time there was no readily available booklet we could turn to for help. Well, there is now such a booklet, just published by MAREP (Murray Alzheimer Research and Education Program at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada). It is the 6th in the wonderful series of "By Us For Us" short guides that are written by and for persons with early-stage memory loss and their partners in care.
    This latest booklet -- titled "LIVING AND TRANSFORMING WITH LOSS AND GRIEF" -- is filled with revealing insights offered by people who are living with Alzheimer's and by caregivers. It lays out many aspects of experiencing and
    living with loss and grief before it explores how we can transform ourselves as we try to come to terms with the central issues. Questions worth reflecting on are included, as are some marvelous endorsements by three professionals. It is a most useful booklet!
    Copies can be purchased from MAREP for, I think, just $2 per copy: 1-519-888-4567, ext. 32920. The website is: www.marep.uwaterloo.ca

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  70. I read all the above emails with interest, and
    curioius that no one has mentioned that while
    young, you CAN be tested [DNA] for the possibility of acquiring AD and IF so, you can
    be prescribed a drug to keep it from progressing
    I read this in a magazine. so, for people who 'have' relataives with it, get this testing done 'early' to ward it off.

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  71. All emails were enlightening and were a cause for further observation with family and friends.
    I am a firm believer that including various herbs and antioxidants would enhance the quality of life, especially as one gets older.

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  72. Any question you have can be answered by the Alzheimer's Association 24-hour, 7-days-a-week, toll-free helpline

    1-800-272-3900

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  73. I believe that forgetting things is part of growing older. Now adays compared to 10 or 20 years ago, this society is moving so much quicker. People have more on their mind and forget some things at times. I do this myself. I do not believe that this is alzheimers or dementia. It is just getting older. I had a mother who passed away from the so called alzheimers disease. This could have also been just dementia. The doctors say that the only way that you can say that someone had alzheimers disease is to do a autopsy of the brain after they pass away. How many families have done this autopsy to their beloved one who supposedly died from alzheimers? Until that is done, it is just dementia.

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  74. Disappointed that this article doesn't address foods/natural supplements known to stimulate brain health besides simply saying "eat your fruits and veggies". What about the vitamins D & C, Omega 3's, grape seed extract, etc? Perhaps expensive medicine wouldn't be necessary if we knew and incorporated more natural cures into our diets.

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  75. Great genuis here.....a very formadable task, indeed said Sherlock Holmes to his alter ego, Doctor Watson. Maintaining energy and humor as human beings age.

    "Maintain, maintain Holmes handing the detective his violin and bow.

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  76. My goodness...this sure has elicited comments and stories. How wonderful. I agree with most of the above!
    My main reaction to the article, and I want to reiterate, is one mentioned many times: why are there no indications listed? What to look for? Where are the "7" I was expecting to read? Are there simple questions/lists a family member could ask/make that may indicate that a doctors' visit is in order? Clearly a follow-up to this article is needed and will be much appreciated, particularly since, as stated, too many physicians are not adequately informed. Thank you for the article. Wonderful!

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  77. It was interesting to hear there is a DNA test for Alz I was not aware of. I am my families health historian finding this site through curiousity after finding the Duke Univ. Eye Clinic site search for genetic answers for Retinitis Pigmentosa group of eye diseases and their potential origins and treatments. It all goes back to our birth when we are "born with a potential to" enviornmentally or genetically succumb to some disease. I agree we must be our own healers and not wait for others to tell us why we may become ill. I have been taking DHEA for 15 yrs which we slowly lose in our 20's. On a doctor's insistance I go on medicine for "pre-diabetees" I closely self monitored my food intake, lost 12lbs and brought my A1c level to a healthier 6.4 without using any medicine. I left that doctor. I am still working on the weight loss trail. Being physically and socially active plays a big part in overall health which has brought HBp to below the suggested 120/80 and a healthy 56 pulse. I primarily do short walks.

    Now at age 79, I too research why my 66 yr old Irish grandmother died in 1932 with diabetes and Dementia mentioned on her death certificate. No one else in my direct line has since died with Dementia. She was said to thwart the "rowdies" with her shallalyg (? cane) which would exhibit anger and/or frustration. Not much medical input was around in those days. We must look to ourselves and when we don't like the answers, look some more. Good Luck.

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  78. My 80 year old husband has had symptoms of early dementia/alz since his multiple heart surgeries over 10 years ago. He has also had a knee replacement since then that further increased his mental symptoms. He has need of a knee replacement surgery on his other knee but I will not agree to it...as I am afraid that I will lose him completely mentally...He does not accept his diagnosis by a doctor of early dementia/alz and will not get further testing. I have seen the indications of anger and frustration that have been mentioned. As a former aerospace mechanical engineer he is upset when he can't remember things... This man who has always been the most gentle person, now regularly loses his temper....

    I am waiting for the day when he will be out driving and will not be able to find his way home...

    This column has been very helpful - just for moral support....

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  79. I want to sincerely thank all of you for the posts that have been like a wake up call to me. I am 76 and have noticed the memory loss/can't remember a new name/why won't that word pop up as I talk- syndrome. I will now look at all the sites you have been so gracious to provide, start with the suplements, read the books and do my usual thing which is to be proactive with my health now that I accept that it is starting to slide and I won't let it do that. Look out Dr., here I come!! All this from reading the Life Line thread about AD. Thanks to all of you. -Bill-

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  80. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  81. Very Good Post about Alzheimer.. thank you all for your helpful comments.

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