Once more, we’ve received news from the United Kingdom about advances on the Alzheimer’s front. An article in the Daily Mail titled, “Blood test that gives ‘a six-year early warning’ of Alzheimer’s,” brings us news about a blood test that can detect Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (and even differentiate between the two) as much as six years in advance of symptoms.
The good part, much like genetic testing I wrote about in a post titled “New Law Should Protect Those Who Want Genetic Tests - Will it?” is that this test will allow people who feel they may be at risk to be tested, and if the diagnosisis positive, they and their families will have much more time to prepare.
People could make lifestyle changes if their physicians think the changes are indicated, and some may even try to participate in drug trials with the hope that they can beat the odds. I like to think that some families may even find themselves pulling closer, knowing that there is a big chance they will face the challenges of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, together, in the future.
The bad part? As with genetic testing, there is the possibility that both life and health insurance companies will abuse this information and deny coverage to the person who may be at risk for the disease. The article in the Daily Mail mentions that this breakthrough has raised fears that companies could force employees to be checked and if they test positive, they may have to pay higher insurance premiums.
Researchers are in the final stages of testing 300 patients. Professionals in both the Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s communities warn that the research is still in its early stages. But the new test is making tracks. According to the article, “U.S.-based manufacturer Power3 Medical Products plans to market the test in the U.S. and Greece later this year.”
Will this blood test even be talked about a year from now? Hard to say. With news of tests, vaccines, drugs and other treatments with promise blasting through airwaves and into print on a near-daily basis, only to be trashed a short while later because of flawed testing or false hope, it’s hard to know what will be “big news” - even next week. Still, the studies must go on. There is hope that during these studies there will be true breakthroughs that will lead to the prevention and cure of many diseases.
Meanwhile, people who already have Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, their caregivers, and their physicians work to preserve quality and meaning in the lives affected by the disease. Any real news that improves quality of life for these people would be good news, indeed.
To read more about the research, check out the Neurotheraputics Journal.
Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran family caregiver who spent more than two decades caring for a total of seven elders. She is a newspaper columnist and the author of Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. Bradley Bursack is also a contributor to several books on caregiving and dementia, and is passionate about preserving the dignity of elders. Her website is www.mindingourelders.com. Follow Carol on Twitter @mindingourelder and on Facebook at Minding Our Elders.