Victoria has Alzheimer’s disease. A friend of the family who is a practical nurse takes care of her. Victoria is in the advanced stages of the disease. She sits in a chair by the window most of the time calling for her late husband and shouting: “It’s time to get on the train!” The rest of the time she appears oblivious to what’s going on around her.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that robs senior citizens of their memory by destroying the connections in the brain. They slowly lose the ability to recognize friends and family. The early symptoms mimic those of someone who is just getting older. We all forget where we left our car keys from time to time.
Stem cell research offers the potential of regrowing some of those lost brain cells, but that research is just beginning and progress could be years away. But there is hope in the area of preventing the disease in the first place.
According to Time Magazine and CNN: “It’s been nearly a decade since a much anticipated trial of a vaccine to treat Alzheimer’s disease failed to address the memory-robbing symptoms of the disease, and in the intervening years, researchers have not had much success in interrupting the slow mental decline that accompanies the condition.”
But maybe that trend will change as researchers focus on diagnosing the disease at an earlier stage and developing better treatments of this debilitating condition that robs people and loved ones who become caregivers of their lives.
More treatments equal a better chance of a cure despite all of the doom and gloom that has surrounded the disease for the past few years. And we really need a breakthrough. Right now a 65-year-old has about a 10% chance of getting the disease and by the year 2050, the number of Alzheimer’s cases in the United States will have increased three times.
Right now Alzheimer’s disease can only be definitely diagnosed after a person’s death when the tangled mess of neuron plaques can be seen at autopsy. But we now may be close to identifying the genes that cause Alzheimer’s and the chemicals that start the disease.
Right now there is nothing that we can do to halt the eventual ravages of the disease, but we may soon have brain and spinal fluid tests that may allow us to diagnose it at an earlier stage.
So in the future we may not have to worry whether grandma’s forgetfulness is just a natural part of aging or something that is far more serious.