Better Health: Smart Health Commentary Better Health (TM): smart health commentary

Article Comments (2)

Are You Afraid Of Alzheimer’s?

There are few conditions more frightening to my patients – and to me – than dementia. It’s easily the most common fear voiced in my office. One woman recently said, “I couldn’t think of her name and I’ve known her for years; I think I may have Alzheimer’s.” Another patient, a physician, half-jokingly asked, “How do I know if I’m losing it or have just misplaced it?” Behind his nervous attempt at humor was a deadly serious concern.

The most common form of dementia in the elderly is Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, it affects as many as 5.3 million Americans. Especially cruel is the twilight phase when patients can still understand what they are losing, when they can see the receding silhouette of their memories but cannot reclaim what they’ve lost. This was brought home to me very poignantly last year when I interviewed 65 year old Carol and her husband Mike about Carol’s Alzheimer’s. At one point, Carol could not remember how long she’d been married even though I had just reminded her two minutes earlier. At another point, Mike – a retired cop – broke down talking about his wife’s illness. All the words in the world cannot adequately describe the anguish conveyed by the looks on their faces, the tone of their voices.

Often forgotten in the tragedy of dementia are the caretakers, frequently family members whose lives are torpedoed by the devastating illness. In this week’s CBS Doc Dot Com, I speak with Gloria Signorini, an 80 year old woman with dementia and with her daughter, Joanne, who has put her life on hold to take care of her mother. Mrs. Signorini’s physician, Dr. Gayatri Devi, an expert in dementia at NYU Langone Medical Center, provides perspective about Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

** Editor’s Note: Please click on this link to watch the video (I’m having technical difficulties embedding it here)**

Watch CBS Videos Online

You may also like these posts

    None Found

Read comments »

2 Responses to “Are You Afraid Of Alzheimer’s?”

  1. ogrecat says:

    —Especially cruel is the twilight phase when patients can still understand what they are losing, when they can see the receding silhouette of their memories but cannot reclaim what they’ve lost—

    Why are we not allowed t die at this point?

  2. ogrecat says:

    Why are we not allowed to 'opt out' when we realize that hell has just begun?

Return to article »

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

Read more »

How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

Read more »

See all interviews »

Latest Cartoon

See all cartoons »

Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

Read more »

The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

Read more »

Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

Read more »

See all book reviews »