Are You a Likely Candidate for Alzheimer’s?

I recently had the opportunity to participate in a radio series focusing on Alzheimer’s caregivers. My mom and I were interviewed by Sean Corcoran of WCAI radio, the NPR station on Cape Cod. The series was divided into five parts which were played on five different days. Sean did an outstanding job of illustrating many different family situations with a family member who has the disease. He has won many awards for his work and I am sure this series will be another award winner.

Here is a link to the series: www.wgbh.org/wcai/alz2.cfm

The research has shown that there are no specific strategies anyone can take to avoid the disease. No amount of crossword puzzles, brain teasers or mental exercises can protect your brain from Alzheimer’s. But according to Lisa Genova, author of “Still Alice” the most incredible book I’ve ever read about an Alzheimer’s patient, early detection is valuable.

Lisa states that “Awareness leading to earlier diagnosis is important. Although the current drugs available for treating Alzheimer’s do not change the ultimate course of the disease, they can stave off its progression for a significant amount of time, allowing the person with Alzheimer’s to live on sort of a plateau, to enjoy the capabilities they still have for a longer time”

Research has also shown that 50% of the children of Alzheimer’s patients will get the disease themselves. I am a child of an Alzheimer’s patient. Should I be tested to determine if I am likely to get the disease? Recent advances in testing can indicate if you have a very high likelihood of getting the disease but can’t tell you for sure if you will. So does it make sense to have the tests done or just let life take it’s course?

At this point I have decided not to be tested but to live my life to the fullest and be conscious of the occurrence of symptoms. I checked with the Alzheimer’s Association at their website http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_10_signs_of_alzheimers.asp and learned that there are ten indicators to be conscious of . If you have any of these ( or if a loved one does) check with your doctor:

Memory loss that disrupts daily life.
Challenges in planning or solving problems
Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work or at leisure
Confusion with time or place
Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
New problems with words in speaking or writing
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace your steps
Decreased or poor judgement
Withdrawal from work or social activities
Changes in mood or personality