Alzheimer's | KCUR

Alzheimer's

Alex Smith / KCUR

Medical researchers have made giant leaps in diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease, which could make it possible to detect the illness long before memory and cognitive problems show up.

There is no cure for the fatal, degenerative disease, and it remains one of the  diagnoses most feared by patients. But researchers and patient advocates say it’s still worth facing their fears and getting tested.

Gov. Jeff Colyer is scheduled to sign an executive order on Friday night that will lead to the development of a state dementia plan.

Kansas is the only state without a plan. Advocates have been in contact with Colyer since July about forming a task force and putting a plan together.

Aaron Brown

Brian Daldorph, who teaches English at the University of Kansas, published his sixth book of poetry late last year. “Ice Age/Edad de Hielo” is both a celebration of his late father’s life and a glimpse into losing a parent to Alzheimer’s, which Daldorph did in 2012.

Helvetiq / Flickr - CC

Rarely do public places and spaces in the U.S. cater to the needs of people with dementia. Today, we find out how advocates in Kansas City are creating social events and activities to help reduce the stigma surrounding the condition, and make the world an easier place for folks with dementia to navigate. Then, we learn what other drivers might think about you because of the stickers you put on your car. The messages they send may be different from what you intend.

Dan Margolies / KCUR 89.3

In 2001, Terrie Huntington’s younger sister began showing symptoms of dementia. She was 48 years old and was a funeral director in Clearwater, Kansas. She started having trouble figuring out the numbers on her computer keyboard.

“She also had other diseases, fibromyalgia and arthritis, and was taking medication and she thought, ‘Perhaps I’m not taking the right medication, it's making me forgetful,’” Huntington says.

Huntington says her sister eventually lost the ability to dial a phone or use the dials on a washing machine.

Dan Margolies / Heartland Health Monitor

Dementia is an impairment of brain functions marked by memory loss and personality changes. It affects an estimated 4 million to 5 million adults in the United States annually and, as the elder population increases, is likely to have a growing impact in the future.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting as many as 5 million Americans in 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That number is projected to rise to 14 million by 2050.

An Alzheimer's diagnosis impacts not just the person who has the disease but their family and friends who take on a caretaking role, as well. Too often, the health and happiness of the supporters is overlooked, to the detriment of everyone involved.

Guests:

From research to relationships, from the laboratory to the living room, there's a lot going on in the world of Alzheimer's. In this encore presentation of Central Standard, we share the voices of Alzheimer's patients, stories from caregivers and a progress report from a leading scientist. 

Guests:

Marcy Oehmke / Linn High School

An estimated 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease.

That number is projected to nearly triple by 2050 as the U.S. population trends older. Currently, there is no cure for the disease and no treatments shown to slow its progress.

Clay County, in north central Kansas, has the nation's highest rate of people on Medicare diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. At 22 percent, it’s roughly double the rate in surrounding counties, as well as state and national averages.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

When Barbara Walker heard that the University of Kansas Medical Center was looking for people to participate in clinical trials for treating and preventing Alzheimer’s disease, she was quick to sign up.

Walker, 72, lost her husband to the illness in 2001. He was just 56 years old when he was diagnosed and had no known family history of Alzheimer’s. Walker and her three kids were shocked.

Andy Marso / Heartland Health Monitor

Almost every day, Jay Mellies leaves his home in Clay Center and drives about 20 miles north to visit his wife at a nursing home in neighboring Washington County.

Some days when he comes in she tells staff, “I don’t know that guy.” Then she smiles. It’s a joke, but Mellies knows someday it may not be. His wife has Alzheimer’s disease.

If at some point she no longer remembers him, he will continue to come, nearly every day, to read to her and listen to her favorite music. They’ve been married 55 years, after all, and he believes others would do the same for their spouses.

Esther Honig

This summer, more than 200 teams from around the world competed in KCRW's third International Radio Race. Participants were given the theme "Time Change" and 24 hours to produce a short radio story.

From research to relationships, from the laboratory to the living room, there's a lot going on in the world of Alzheimer's. We share the voices of Alzheimer's patients, stories from caregivers and a progress report from a leading scientist. 

Guests:

Alzheimer's and dementia can make loved ones appear unreachable, like shells of their former selves. A new documentary and increasingly popular treatment program use music to connect with the dynamic inner lives of patients. 

Guests:

Stefani Fontana / KCUR

It’s a form of dementia that afflicts as many as 5.2 million people in the United States. It has no cure.

And as the population ages, the number of people afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease is expected to quadruple over the next 35 years, according to a study from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health.

That means that by 2050, 1 in 85 people will be living with the disease.

The Challenges Of Caregiving

Oct 29, 2013

No one says that caring for a sick relative is easy, especially when Alzheimer’s disease is involved. However, the day to day struggles of caregivers are often lost in the shuffle. 

Alex Smith / KCUR

With help from a new grant, University of Kansas Medical Center researchers will look at how Alzheimer's might be prevented without drugs. Pharmaceutical companies haven’t had much success fighting the disease, which is the most common form of dementia.

KU Med Dr. Jeff Burns will have older high risk volunteers in the study exercise 150 minutes a week. Burns will scan volunteers’ brains to see how exercise affects amyloid protein, which is linked to the disease.

Burns says even if exercise can only hold off Alzheimer’s, it could make a big difference.

Laura Ziegler

Alzheimer’s affects so many people these days that many senior living facilities have dedicated wings for sufferers of the disease.

KU Researcher Lands NIH Grant For Alzheimer’s Study

Dec 14, 2012
user AJC1 / Flickr

A University of Kansas researcher is partnering with a Harvard scientist on a $1.7 million study of a protein believed to play a role in Alzheimer's disease.

Activity cuts the risk of Alzheimer's disease and slows cognitive decline, even in the very old, according to a new study.

There's been plenty of evidence for the "use it or lose it" theory of brain capacity. But this study is one of the first to show that activity of all sorts benefits people over age 80, even if they're not "exercising."

Alzheimer's Awareness

Nov 29, 2011

Just before the end of Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month, we sit down with experts in the field. We'll talk warning signs, stages, treatments, and new research happening in the Midwest. Plus, another story from The Creativity Connection.