Know someone in Dubuque and elsewhere affected by Alzheimer’s disease, perhaps someone currently receiving hospice care because of this condition? You can thank the findings of a doctor in the early 20th century who first noticed something unusual about a patient’s brain he was examining.
In 1906 Dr. Alois Alzheimer found unusual and significant amounts of abnormal ‘clumping’ in the brain of an elderly woman who recently passed away due to mysterious, unknown reasons. This made him wonder if these physical symptoms could explain some of the behaviors that family members had noticed prior to her death, including memory problems, anxiety, language difficulties, and the inability to be aware of her surroundings.
Dr. Alzheimer’s observations and questions and the physical evidence set off a great deal of research by him and others which is still going on today. The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care has tried to follow this research closely since we treat many patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, along with their concerned families.
Although Alzheimer’s disease remains progressive and permanent at this time, we try to learn everything we can about how it works and what it does to the brain, including possible causes and possible ways to ways to slow down its advance. This way, we’ll be able to answer questions from our patients and families about what they’re experiencing and may experience in the future.
Everyone’s experience and symptoms differ slightly, but this disease does seem to follow a certain process. This information can be useful in planning ahead for what levels of care may be needed later, everything from different caregivers to types of therapy to hospice care.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure yet, but we are encouraged by how much we’ve already learned over the last century about what’s happening in the brain, especially all the exciting research currently taking place.
For those who also want to know more about how we arrived where we are today, here are some research milestones provided by Alzheimers.net, the Alzheimer’s Association and the National Institute on Aging.
- 1931: Research into small areas of the brain was aided by the development of the electron microscope.
- 1968: A new scale of cognition was developed that made it easier to see how people’s knowledge and abilities changed as the structure of their brains changed.
- 1974: The National Institute of Aging was created by the U.S. Congress, which supported research into Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia that affect many seniors.
- 1976: Alzheimer’s disease was officially announced to be different and distinct from other forms of dementia.
- 1984: The National Institute of Aging created a network around the country of research centers that look closely at Alzheimer’s disease and similar conditions. It later launched a genetic study to see if some people are at higher risk by nature.
- 1984, 1987: The beta-amyloid protein was detected in blood vessels and later at a genetic level.
- 1993: Federal approval was granted for Cognex, the first drug that is believed to show reductions in symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease such as dementia symptoms and memory loss.
- 1994: Former President Ronald Reagan shared with the public that he has Alzheimer’s disease, which increased attention for it.
- 2010: Alzheimer’s disease is shown to be the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S.
- 2011: The National Alzheimer’s Project Act was signed by President Barack Obama. This increased national funding and support to continue research. Alzheimer’s disease was declared to be a pathological process that turns into a clinical disease over several decades, not just another type of dementia. A timeline of an average person with Alzheimer’s disease indicate that some people may begin to show symptoms as early as age 40, but it’s rarely detected or investigated this early.
- 2013: Alzheimer’s goes beyond a U.S. problem as evidenced by a United Kingdom summit focusing on the condition that other developed countries signed off on.
- 2019: The National Institute for Aging reports that more than 5.5 million Americans likely have Alzheimer’s disease. It’s also believed to be ranked as the third leading cause of death for older people and still sixth for the larger U.S. population.
So with that interesting past, the questions still come up: when will things get better? When will a universal cure be found? Will a vaccine help? What can I do to avoid contracting the disease?
Experts vary on a firm timeline since there’s so much testing taking place. There’s also more pressure, as the population continues to age and our risk increases.
The NIA offers a general hope for a cure by the next decade, based on the rate of recent advances in brain research and potential for certain medications.
Research has also shown that lifestyle changes can help significantly slow down the advances of Alzheimer’s disease, including regular exercise and a better diet.
It also promotes info about resources at a local and multi-state level, plus details about current and upcoming clinical trials and national studies people can be part of.