Dementia in the News

They were stooped, hobbled, disoriented, fumbling around the house. They got confused in the bathtub and struggled up stairs that seemed to swim before them.

“Oh, it hurts,” said Noh Hyun-ho, sinking to the ground.

“I thought I was going to die,” said Yook Seo-hyun.

In the basement of Harvard Law School's Hemenway Gymnasium, a battle of ages is being waged.

A drug used decades ago to treat high blood pressure has been shown to improve learning and memory in mouse models of Alzheimer's disease, according to a new study by researchers at the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health. The study found that the drug, diazoxide, acted on nerve cells in the mouse brain in ways that slowed the development of the neurodegenerative disorder. The findings appear in the Nov 15 2010 print edition of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

Bruce Vincent works his way up and down the aisles of the grocery store he has owned for two decades, methodically unpacking crates of food, stocking shelves, and breaking down the empty cartons.

Midway down aisle 2, Vincent hesitates, unsure where the fudge-coated peanuet butter cookies go. The redesigned package throws him, so he tucks them amid crackers on the top shelf and continues down the row.

"Who are you?" Tracy Mobley asked, he recalled.

"Mom, are you joking with me or what?"

"No," she replied. She was adamant. "Who are you?"

It's a gnawing fear that one fateful day, the memories of aging parents will fade and they won't be able to recognize their own children.

For Austin, it started early, He was 6.

Austin is in an emerging generation of young caretakers of parents who have dementia.

Much of the research on Alzheimer's next year will be about going back in time, trying to determine when and how the brain begins to deteriorate.

Renee Packel used to have a typical suburban life. Her husband, Arthur, was a lawyer and also sold insurance. They lived in a town house just outside Philadelphia, and Mrs. Packel took care of their home and family.

One day, it all came crashing down. The homeowners’ association called asking for their fees. To Mrs. Packel’s surprise, her husband had simply stopped paying them. Then she learned he had stopped writing checks to his creditors, too.

OUR government is ignoring what is likely to become the single greatest threat to the health of Americans: Alzheimer’s disease, an illness that is 100 percent incurable and 100 percent fatal. It attacks rich and poor, white-collar and blue, and women and men, without regard to party. A degenerative disease, it steadily robs its victims of memory, judgment and dignity, leaves them unable to care for themselves and destroys their brain and their identity — often depleting their caregivers and families both emotionally and financially.

Heavy smoking in middle age may more than double the risk of Alzheimer's disease later in life, according to a large population-based study.

The prospective cohort study of more than 21,000 people found that those who smoked more than two packs a day developed dementia of any kind twice as often as nonsmokers, Rachel A. Whitmer, PhD, of Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., and colleagues reported.

The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health announced today that the National Institutes of Health’s Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) - the largest public-private partnership in Alzheimer’s disease research – has been renewed for an additional five years.

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