Why does this matter? Schizophrenia has been studied and treated, with varying degrees of success, for decades. Schizophrenia has many “ingredients” and all cases aren’t the same, however there are drugs already available that help many people with the disease.
We seem to be on a research rollercoaster these days. New drugs pop up in the news bringing hope to us all. Sometimes that hope continues. Other times, within a short while, we see the study blindly crash into a wall. However, right around the corner is another study, looking at Alzheimer’s from another angle. Is this it? Is this the answer?
The researchers are looking at Alzheimer’s disease from different angles, which is important, because it seems unlikely that there will be one total prevention or cure discovered for some time. However, there may be an approach that will work for one person, when it doesn’t for another.
We know that nutrition, exercise (both physical and mental) and the right gene pool are all helpful in preventing many diseases, including Alzheimer’s. It’s pretty much accepted that what’s good for the heart is good for the brain - and likely the rest of the body, as well. These are all things we can do now, which is what I like about them. They won’t hurt and may help.
However, if researchers find similarities between Alzheimer’s and other diseases that doctors have been treating for decades - diseases for which there are already effective drugs - then, it seems to me these tests should continue, as doctors may have at their disposal drugs that could be used “off label,” meaning they could be prescribed for Alzheimer’s to see if they work for a particular patient.
Obviously, we all want to see a cure for those who have the disease. Ultimately, we want to see prevention. But there are millions of people living with the disease right now. All the hopes and dreams of five years from now aren’t going to help them.
The rollercoaster of research will be exciting to watch. New hope is always welcome. But if there is a study that shows a drug we already have at hand may help some who have Alzheimer’s right now - that is also reason to celebrate.
Hooray for those taking risks with looking at the disease from different angles. They may give doctors treating patients with the disease now more tools to work with.
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.