The Future of Alzheimer’s
Of the potentially overwhelming fears that accompany an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, perhaps the largest is the fear of the unknown. So much remains undiscovered about Alzheimer’s. The disease is universally challenging while incredibly subjective, with rates of progression and symptoms varying from person to person. The truth is, there is no catch-all that can be prescribed to beat Alzheimer’s at this time. There have been, however, significant advances in the care and treatment of the disease that provide a glimpse into a future where it is more manageable.
In the past, a major risk for individual’s suffering from memory loss was the risk of wandering away or getting lost. Fortunately, recent inventions have mitigated this risk. Wander alert bracelets have been introduced to conveniently keep a person with Alzheimer’s connected with their medical information at all times. Should this person wander off, their identity and secured medical profile can be accessed.. With this information, the wanderer has a much easier time getting home.
Another recent Alzheimer’s care advancement is bracelets available with detachable GPS pendants. These bracelets enable the wearer’s location to be tracked remotely. Essentially, a family member or caregiver could always know the location of a wandering loved one. This technological advancement could lead to faster recovery of those lost and increased overall safety.
Even with the benefits brought about by advances in technology, the most consistently recommended method for addressing Alzheimer’s effectively is receiving a diagnosis as early as possible, getting informed, and making a plan. Talking in-depth to a doctor about a diagnosis is an excellent first step. “The best thing anyone can do for their health, mental or physical, is to be proactive about it. No matter the age, a person can continue to learn and incorporate practices to keep their brains (and bodies) as fit as possible,” says Meredith Patterson, RN, author of Pillars of Brain Fitness.
Patients over 65 who have Medicare insurance can now include a cognitive test in their Annual Wellness Visit (AWV). If more people with Alzheimer’s know to ask about cognitive tests, patients and caregivers can make more specific and detailed plans. It is also important to note that it’s a good idea to ask one’s doctor for a cognitive test before it is recommended. A good doctor will want to work alongside a patient to find his or her best long-term health plan, no matter who first suggested the idea.
The Alzheimer’s Association cites in its 2019 report that cognitive tests being included in AWVs is a significant step forward for managing the disease. The inclusion of this test makes early detection more financially accessible. It also may fundamentally change the age at which Alzheimer’s treatment begins.
As it currently stands, Alzheimer’s is usually first detected in patients between ages 60-65. If cognitive tests are run earlier in a person’s decline, doctors may be able to pick up on subtle warning signs they haven’t in the past. This has the potential to create a more thorough working knowledge across the medical profession of early Alzheimer’s expression. The potential to catch Alzheimer’s earlier is a highly encouraging aspect of proactive memory care.
Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, there are a few promising drugs claiming to significantly slow the progression of the disease. One such treatment is aducanumab by Biogen, which is pending U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) review. If approved, aducanumab could be available as early as March of 2021. Though no single drug yet promises a cure, developments like this mark a significant scientific turning point.
People with Alzheimer’s may also consider signing up for medical trials. While each medical trial has associated risks, participating often gives people a feeling of taking control of the disease having played a part in working to find a cure. Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all approach for Alzheimer’s care. However, talking through options with one’s family and doctor may help bring clarity to those searching for the path through an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Alzheimer’s support and education resources are available in South Central Texas. Speaking with an expert can make a diagnosis and care more manageable. As a leading memory care expert in the region, EdenHill Communities is hosting a free Alzheimer’s Symposium on October 22 for seniors experiencing Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia and their caregivers. Dr. Mark Burns, a geriatric and general psychiatrist with his practice based in New Braunfels, and Meredith Patterson, RN, author of Pillars of Brain Fitness, are both speaking at the Symposium and will be available to answer questions. With the option to attend the event virtually or in-person (with social distancing measures in place), RSVPs are required. To learn more or to register, visit www.edenhill.org/symposium or call 830-625-1324.