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  • Print publication year: 2018
  • Online publication date: January 2018

8 - Alzheimer's: America's Most Feared Disease

Summary

Dementia, My Darling

If someone finds me on the road

If someone finds me on the road

in my nightgown, barefoot and talking

in my nightgown, barefoot and talking

If my talking nightgown

finds the road in me

and someone on barefoot

Or I'm throwing my money to the cars

Or I'm throwing my money to the cars

convinced I'm just feeding the ducks

convinced I'm just feeding the ducks

I'm feeding the money

the cars, or the ducks

I'm just convinced to throwing

Please lock me away

Please lock me away

and live your life

and live your life

and lock your life away

Please live me

If my talking convinced someone,

my barefoot lock on the road, ducks

in the cars throwing money to live

and the feeding finds me

and I'm me

or I'm your life

please just nightgown away

– Brendan Constantine

Anyone over the age of 60 would be foolhardy not to be fearful of dementia in general and Alzheimer's disease (AD) in particular, because it is very common. About one-third of people in the developed world have a family member or friend who has succumbed to one form or another of dementia, and these numbers are expected to soar thanks to longer lifespans. What makes dementia so horrifying is that it comes with the annihilation of memory and personal identity, to the extent that you eventually are unable to recognize even your loved ones. You end up as an empty shell of your former self.

When thinking about AD it is important to appreciate that AD and dementia are not one and the same thing. AD, which accounts for about 60 percent of dementia cases, causes problems with memory, language, and reasoning. It is characterized by the accumulation of deposits made up of a protein amyloid-β between, and tangles of another protein known as tau both between and within, brain cells. In describing AD it is important to distinguish “characterized by” from “caused by” because, as we will see, there is still some doubt here.