Reisa Sperling remembers her grandfather as the robust, genial patriarch of her family. When she was young, he took her ballroom dancing and deep-sea fishing. But as he entered his seventies he became irritable and short-tempered, worried about money, and suspicious of Sperling's father and aunt, whom he accused of stealing from him. Always a dapper dresser, he began to leave his house looking dishevelled. Soon, he couldn't dress himself at all, and he eventually forgot how to use a fork and knife. He had a history of hypertension, and his doctors attributed his change in behavior to dementia brought on by "hardening of the arteries." They gave him sedatives to treat his agitation, but his condition continued to deteriorate until he died, in 1993, bedridden, oblivious to the world.
Sperling was started medical school at Harvard when her grandfather fell ill; a small, energetic woman, she is now the director of the Alzheimer's clinical research center at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital, in Boston.
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