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 commonly manifested.
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 Disease today.
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
“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 Association.”
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.