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Medical advances help people live longer, which raises questions about the quality of that longer life.
By RICHARD AMRHINE
It's estimated that 4.5 million Americans have Alzheimer's today, with the cost of their care believed to be approaching $100 billion. By 2040, it's estimated that Alzheimer's patients will number 13 million--with the cost of their care astronomical.
The nation may be woefully unprepared as the baby-boom generation ages and the number of Alzheimer's victims proliferates. It may be up to individuals themselves to stave off Alzheimer's by striving to keep their minds and bodies as active as possible as long as possible.
Perhaps you took note as I did of the Florida couple killed when their private plane crashed on a foggy approach to a Loudoun County airport en route to a Thanksgiving visit with children. He was 84, and no one doubted his competence as a pilot. His wife was 83.
As it is, today's grandparents and great-grandparents are Alzheimer's treatment guinea pigs. Certain vitamins, foods, and lifestyle choices are showing promise in delaying Alzheimer's symptoms. Several medications are emerging that apparently help slow the onset of Alzheimer's, so it is best to administer them as early as possible.
These revelations mean that children and caregivers must recognize certain behaviors as indicators of Alzheimer's, not just as expected signs of aging.
But there is no specific treatment or possible cure for Alzheimer's once a diagnosis is made. Research is ongoing, and the National Institutes of Health releases a comprehensive annual report devoted to the latest knowledge about the disease.
But the report's wording reflects research that has a very long way to go. It thoroughly describes the symptoms, even changes in brain tissue found postmortem. But why some people are affected, and others aren't, remains a mystery.
RICHARD AMRHINE is a writer and editor with The Free Lance-Star.