Senior Lifestyles: Alzheimer’s disease update: Are we making progress?

Published 1:08 pm Monday, January 8, 2018

Alzheimer’s disease remains one of the most feared diagnoses any patient can receive. Certainly cancer is a word we’d rather not hear from our doctors either, but the majority of cancers, if caught early enough, are treatable, and the medical breakthroughs in the diagnosis and treatment continue to occur at a steady pace. That’s not the case with (AD) Alzheimer’s disease.

The sad fact is that today, in the U.S., a new case of this brain-debilitating disorder develops every minute of the day, which underscores the urgency placed upon our medical and pharmaceutical professionals, especially as our population continues to age. Boomers in particular should be pushing universities, the government and every research company to do all they can to speed up the development of a drug that can prevent, slow, stop or cure Alzheimer’s disease. But because it’s a disease of the brain, doing so has proven to be incredibly challenging.

Many drug companies have announced advanced levels of drug trials, but almost every trial has failed to produce the expected results. But with over five million Americans diagnosed with AD, and potentially millions more either undiagnosed or in the early stages where problems can be hidden or glossed over and managed, the need to find a breakthrough treatment is becoming extremely urgent.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

With so many people diagnosed with AD, there is some good news, although it’s not a solution, but the increased awareness of the public and government agencies has led to an increase in funding and a decrease in the fear patients have of being “labeled” cognitively impaired. But the problem remains and the rate of new patients being diagnosed with AD is far exceeding the new development of medicines and treatment protocols that make a significant difference in the overall outcome.

There is a school of thought as to why breast cancer is close to being defeated, and it’s based on numbers. According to Dr. C. Moussa, director for the Laboratory for Dementia and Parkinsonism at Georgetown Medical Center, “…women around the world came together and said ‘we have to do something.’ We need that for Alzheimer’s.”

As you might expect, costs for research and treatment are a very big issue. With healthcare and health insurance current political hot topics, the professionals, advocates and patients all agree that there is a need for payment models that would work for everyone, and how to create a health system that would be capable of handling a cure.

The political good news comes from the Senate Finance Committee where the Democrat’s chief health policy adviser, Elizabeth Jurinka, said, “Despite party divisions, the issue of treatment and research is nonpartisan.” But you can be sure the debate over Obamacare is also on the minds of both parties. The current administration has increased funding for AD, but the current federal hiring freeze has slowed the grant process at the National Institutes of Health.

So, where are we with finding a cure for AD? Medical science is making progress, but the truth is that as of today, there are no medicines that stop or cure AD. Some may temporarily slow the process of memory loss, but today AD is classified as a terminal disease. With more of us living much longer thanks to medicine and technology, the fact is that we have a 50/50 chance of developing AD if we live to the age of 85 and beyond.

Ron Kauffman is a consultant and expert speaker on Issues of aging, Medicare and Obamacare. Ron is the author of “Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s Disease” available as a Kindle book on He may be contacted at 828-696-9799 or by email at