Early Alzheimer’s Undertreatment


LOS ANGELES, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Alzheimer’s specialists around the world are noticing an alarming trend: patients with early-stage disease aren’t being treated. They’re not taking provided medications and not getting early diagnosis; in fact, they could be making a bad situation worse down the road.

A lot of people don’t even realize 87-year-old Bob Rosenfield has Alzheimer’s. He was diagnosed seven years ago. His wife, Susan, makes sure he takes his medicine every day because they’ve made a big difference.

Susan confessed, “I don’t think Bob would be able to make his breakfast or lunch or help with dinner or work at the computer or go to a movie and talk about it.”

Bob told Ivanhoe, “I can’t race like I used to, but I can do a lot!”

Gary Small, M.D., a geriatric psychiatrist and director at UCLA Longevity Center, said patients often don’t continue taking medications in early stages because they or their families don’t see improvement.

“Many studies have shown that they help patients stay at a higher level of functioning longer. They don’t cure the disease, but they do have an impact on people’s lives,” Dr. Small said.

He also said people avoid getting memory loss checked out for fear of an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The decision delays them from taking drugs to slow the symptoms down.

Dr. Small explained, “It’s going to be easier to protect a healthy brain rather than trying to repair damage once it becomes extensive.”

Susan said she sees others who didn’t take medication in nursing homes, unable to remember their children’s names. She’s adamant that Bob take his meds and live a healthy, active lifestyle.

“I think if you don’t take it, you pay a penalty. You’re giving away quality of life,” said Susan.

Both Dr. Small and the Rosenfields agree that medication alone isn’t enough. It needs to be part of a comprehensive plan that includes eating a healthful diet, exercise, social interaction, and activities that stimulate the brain. Bob goes to a memory care class at UCLA to help keep him sharp.

Contributors to this news report include: Wendy Chioji, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor; Rusty Reed, Videographer.


REPORT #2395

BACKGROUND: Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that is caused by the death and degeneration of brain cells. 60 to 80% of all dementia cases are Alzheimer’s. The disease causes memory, thinking and behavior problems that affect several areas of a person’s life, including their personality. The symptoms of Alzheimer’s are small at first, but as time goes on, they become severe enough to interfere with a person’s daily life. Most patients ae first diagnosed in their 60s or older but early onset Alzheimer’s can be diagnosed when patients are in their 40s or 50s, and they represent 5% of all cases. More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease, and it’s the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.

(Source: http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_what_is_alzheimers.asp)

CATCH IT EARLY: Alzheimer’s is a disease that progresses over time. Those that suffer from Alzheimer’s usually live an average of 8 years after the symptoms have become obvious to others. But, a person can live up to 20 years with the disease if treated early and properly. In order to catch the disease in its early stages it is important to keep an eye out for the following symptoms and signs:

  • Memory loss that affects daily life – This is the most common symptom, especially if the person is forgetting information just learned. Forgetting important dates, or events; asking the same information over and over; and relying on memory aids are important signs.
  • Challenge in planning or solving problems – If a person is having difficulty following a plan or daily routines, like following a recipe, paying the monthly bills, concentrating on a task, or even remembering the rules to their favorite game.
  • Confusion with time or place – Some people with Alzheimer’s may forget the date, season or even year they are in. They also may have difficulty understanding where they are or how they got there.
  • Trouble understanding visual images or spatial relations – They may have difficulty reading, judging distance and determining color, which may cause problems when driving.
  • Misplacing objects – A person may misplace objects or lose them and have difficulty retracing their steps to find them. They might actually blame it on someone else stealing them. As the disease progresses this occurs more frequently.
  • Changes in mood, personality and judgement – People who suffer from Alzheimer’s can become confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious. All of these feelings may affect the person’s personality. They may become easily upset with other people. Furthermore, they may have poor judgment when dealing with money or keeping themselves clean.

(Source: http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_10_signs_of_alzheimers.asp)

DON’T LEAVE IT UNTREATED: Alzheimer’s disease currently has no cure; but there are treatments available that delay the disease’s symptoms. UCLA Alzheimer’s expert, Dr. Gary Small, confesses many people avoid getting memory loss checked out of fear of being diagnosed with the disease. Also, patients often don’t continue taking their medication in early stages of the disease because they or their families don’t see any improvement. In reality, many studies have shown that medication treatments help patients stay at a higher level of functioning longer; so he says the earlier the patient starts treatment, the better. Dr. Small believes medication combined with consuming a healthy diet, exercise, social interaction, and activities that stimulate the brain are the best treatments to delay Alzheimer’s. Susan, Bob’s wife, says “The meds Bob is taking are Exelon Patch 9.5 (apply one daily), NamendaXR 28.000mg (1 tablet daily) for his Alzheimer’s and Dementia and he also takes medications for his heart and watches his carbohydrates.  We believe the more you emphasize a wait and see attitude it becomes more difficult to slow the disease down with medication or any treatment program. We have seen these results and it is very sad!”

(Source: Dr. Gary Small and Susan, Patient’s Wife)

* For More Information, Contact:

Gary Small, M.D.

Director, UCLA Longevity Center


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