Dementia in the News

Researchers are reporting major advances toward resolving two underlying problems involving Alzheimer's disease:  How do you know if someone who is demented has it? And how can you screen the general population to see who is at risk?

One study, reported in The New York Times in June, evaluated a new type of brain scan that can detect plaques that are uniquely characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.

Last year, an expensive, red-brick residential complex opened here, equipped with a hair salon, cinema, toy-cluttered game rooms and a karaoke suite offering the latest in pop music.

The residents are not Chinese yuppies. They are older patients with Alzheimer's disease or dementia in a nursing home that is on the forefront of a new effort by China to deal with its exploding elderly population.

DEAR FRIENDS

We are pleased to bring you this report on our 30th anniversary in the fight to end Alzheimer's. When the Massachusetts Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association was founded, it comprised a small dedicated staff and board of directors. Those individuals went on to make history, establishing programs to help some of the most vulnerable people in our population - families affected by Alzheimer's and related dementias.

Margaret Nance was, to put it mildly, a difficult case. Agitated, combative, often reluctant to eat, she would hit staff members and fellow residents at nursing homes, several of which kicked her out. But when Beatitudes nursing home agreed to an urgent plea to accept her, all that changed.

Disregarding typical nursing-home rules, Beatitudes allowed Ms. Nance, 96 and afflicted with Alzheimer's, to sleep, be bathed and dine whenever she wanted, even at 2 a.m. She could eat anything, too, no matter how unhealthy, including unlimited chocolate.

Faith got Bruce Vincent through his first encounter with Alzheimer's disease.

He was in ninth grade, his parents long divorced, and his mother was acting odd. Theresa Vincent would light a cigarette, put it down and light another. Or she would answer the phone, lay down the receiver, and forget someone had called.

Around this time, a friend invited Bruce Vincent to join the Royal Rangers, an Evangelical Christian boys organization. Amid his confusion, the teen found tranquility in the camping trips, camaraderie, and prayer.

Marjie Popkin thought she had chemo brain, that fuzzy-headed forgetful state that she figured was a result of her treatment for ovarian cancer. She was not thinking clearly - having trouble with numbers, forgetting things she had just heard.

One doctor after another dismissed her complaints. Until recently, since she was, at age 62, functioning well and having no trouble taking care of herself, that might have been the end of her quest for an explanation.

Congress has voted unanimously to create, for the first time, a national plan to combat Alzheimer's disease with the same intensity as the attacks on AIDS and cancer.

The bill, expected to be signed by President Obama, would establish a National Alzheimer’s Project within the Department of Health and Human Services, to coordinate the country’s approach to research, treatment and caregiving.

If you've been worried about forgetting names or misplacing car keys, you're not alone. You also are probably not losing your mind.

Family doctors say their baby boomer patients often worry that such forgetfulness portends a dementia-filled future.

Alzheimer's researchers are obsessed with a small, sticky protein fragment, beta amyloid, that clumps into barnaclelike balls in the brains of patients with this degenerative neurological disease.

It is a normal protein. Everyone’s brain makes it. But the problem in Alzheimer’s is that it starts to accumulate into balls - plaques. The first sign the disease is developing - before there are any symptoms - is a buildup of amyloid. And for years, it seemed, the problem in Alzheimer’s was that brain cells were making too much of it.

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