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Strides in the Diagnosis, Care and Understanding of Alzheimer’s in the Past 30 years.

December 9, 2011

I recently read an article entitled “The Alzheimer’s Generation: What We’ve Learned in 30 Years”.  It was written by Rita Altman, R.N.  While you can read the article yourself in the Huffington Post, here are some interesting facts I discovered:

For example, every 69 seconds, someone develops Alzheimer’s disease and one out of every eight seniors over the age of 65 has the disease. Yet, 30 years ago no one knew its name, although, it was first diagnosed back in 1907. Prior to the recognition of the disease, many people regarded the symptoms of confusion and memory loss as just a reality of getting older. It wasn’t until the 1980’s when the Alzheimer’s Association was formed and Ronald Reagan declared an official “Alzheimer’s Awareness” week that Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of memory loss began to get some attention. The result has been that in the past 30 years there have been remarkable strides in the diagnosis, understanding and care of patients suffering from any type of memory loss.

Also, while a definitive cure for Alzheimer’s is still elusive, there are currently five FDA-approved drug treatments that help relieve the symptoms of the disease. Moreover, there are numerous new therapies being researched to further assist those suffering from the disease.

No longer are families required to care for loved ones suffering from memory loss at home or in a nursing home. Today there are numerous resources for the care of Alzheimer’s patients.  Many assisted living facilities have wings or even free-standing buildings especially designed to help honor the residents’ wishes and promote identity, independence and dignity.

Thirty years ago, there was little consensus about how best to help those who were disoriented and seemed to live in a different time and place because of Alzheimer’s or other forms of memory loss. Today, thousands of professional caregivers are trained to use validation techniques, through which they are able to tune into the inner reality of the person with dementia. This method helps build trust and restore the person’s dignity.

It is noted that as progressive as the last 30 years have been to improve care for those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of memory loss, the future looks even more promising, especially in the area of technology; including such as the GPS shoes. Everyone is hopeful that this generation will be the one where a cure is found.

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