Alzheimer's Disease: A Guide for Families

By Lenore S. Powell; Katie Courtice | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Treating the "Silent Epidemic":
Research Developments

In recent years, psychologists, psychiatrists, geriatric specialists, neurologists, gerontologists, and nurses have learned more about the progression of Alzheimer's disease. Increased knowledge of the illness has helped them to develop some ideas that can be adapted by caregivers to help the patient live more fully in the early stages of the disability. We cannot yet prevent or cure the disease, nor can we reverse its course; but we can reduce the degree of impairment and improve the quality of the lives of Alzheimer's victims by detecting and treating delusions and depression with medication and behavioral and talk therapies.

Today there is a stronger therapeutic understanding of the patient's suffering and the corresponding burden placed on caregivers. A clearer picture of the family situation enables family members who are caregivers to survive this encounter -- an encounter that some families have described as a war. At present, the treatment approach to the person afflicted with Alzheimer's is to help him maintain the maximum amount of dignity and comfort possible. Yet, as more people become vulnerable to Alzheimer's and similar diseases, the search for more active treatment and eventual cure intensifies.

Epidemiologists, who investigate the causes and control of widespread medical epidemics, predict that by the year 2030, when about 20 percent of the population (about 51 million people) will be over the age

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