Thursday, October 28, 2010

Alzheimer's Myths

Sandra Day O'Connor (who lost her husband, John, last November to Alzheimer's disease) and two medical experts on the urgent need for more research as the baby boomers age:
Experience has taught us that we cannot avoid Alzheimer’s disease by having regular medical checkups, by being involved in nourishing relationships or by going to the gym or filling in crossword puzzles. Ronald Reagan suffered the ravages of this disease for a decade despite the support of his loving family, the extraordinary stimulation of his work, his access to the best medical care and his high level of physical fitness. What’s needed are new medicines that attack the causes of the disease directly.
They're right, of course (said the self-interestedly enlightened, aging baby boomer). It's important to note, though, that the article elides Alzheimer's and the dementia that can result from the emotional isolation and discouragement that attend old age, especially in nursing homes. No family that chooses institutional care for an aging relative does so blithely, and none deserves to be judged. But a considerable number of folks who manifest depression-related dementia while living in unfamiliar surroundings -- as many as 50%, according to one study several years ago -- might perk up at home.

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