Caregivers, especially those
who are new to care giving, usually absorb—like
sponges—information on their loved one’s ailment(s).
Here at caregiver.com, we are dedicated to providing
as much useful information as possible to our
readers. While the following information may
not be as practical as most, it is very interesting
to track the history of a disease that is now one of
the most researched diseases in the world.
Scientists are racing to find a cure as millions of
people reach the age when Alzheimer’s is most
In the early 1900’s a
physician named Alois Alzheimer provided care for a
patient with rapidly declining severe dementia.
After she died, he was able to perform an autopsy on
her brain. Advances had recently been made in
histology and microscopy, so Alzheimer was able to
study, in detail, the cellular changes in the
brain’s nervous tissue. What he found was an
atrophy of the gray matter surrounding the brain.
He also found bundles of neurofibers and the plaques
that are now a distinguishing characteristic for a
definitive diagnosis of what we call Alzheimer’s
The term Alzheimer’s Disease
was coined by Emil Kraepelin who, from a biological
point of view, studied psychiatric disorders.
The term first appeared in public in print in
Kraepelin’s book Psychiatrie and it caught on.
Dr. Kraepelin was so impressed with Dr. Alzheimer’s
work that he appointed him to the head of pathology
at a psychiatric institute in Munich that is now
called the Max Planck Institute.
No one had a problem
accepting Alzheimer’s as a distinct disease state.
In spite of that, it didn’t gain much attention for
the next few decades. However, that has
changed recently for a number of reasons. The
chances that any of us will contract an ailment
associated with aging are greater due to advances in
the medical and safety sciences. We are
staying alive for many more years than we used to.
The population surge that occurred shortly after
World War II also complicated matters. Our
population contains a larger percentage of older
people than ever. In fact, the number of
Alzheimer’s patients could triple to 14 million in
the coming years.
Another reason that
Alzheimer’s has recently gained greater importance
is diagnostic in nature. People usually do not
die from the disease itself, but from complications
due to the disease such as pneumonia. In the
earlier part of the last century the cause of death
would be listed as pneumonia. Now, because of
significant advances in research and increased
awareness, Alzheimer’s is listed as the primary
cause of death.
As many of us have parents
and grandparents reaching the age where Alzheimer’s
commonly occurs, research is making giant strides in
finding out more about the disease and possibly
discovering a cure. One organization that has
dedicated itself to that end is the Alzheimer’s
Association. This organization was founded
twenty years ago and since then has awarded grants
over the $100 million mark. This makes it our
nation’s largest private funder of research.
“Every minute, every day,
scientists learn something new about Alzheimer’s
disease. The momentum of research is building,
fueling excitement and moving scientists closer to
understanding the causes of Alzheimer’s,” says
Brenda Johnson, Executive Director of the Greater
Miami Area Chapter. “Many of today’s clinical
discoveries are the result of basic science research
funded over the years by the Alzheimer’s
As the “baby boomer’s”
parents reach retirement age, it is imperative that
we find a cure for this insidious disease before it
reaches epidemic proportions. Donating money
is always a good way to help, but another, more
hands on way, is to get your loved one involved in a
clinical trial. We should all do what we can
because, after all, we aren’t getting any younger.
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