To the editor:
I have been thinking about this letter for some time. An article in the Dr. Donohue column sparked me to write "My Story." It will actually be a condensed story.
Many people do not relate Alzheimer's disease with dementia. They look upon it as two different issues. Some say that Alzheimer's is worse than dementia. So what do you think that Alzheimer's does to its victims? Some answer this correctly by saying it causes the brain to shrink.
Then my next question is "Well what does shrinking of the brain do?" Some people know the answer, but some do not know. The answer is that shrinking the brain causes dementia. Look up the word Alzheimer's in the dictionary. I do know that all dementia is not due to Alzheimer's. There are other diseases that cause dementia. In addition there are two kinds of dementia (roughly without nit picking). The other one is blunt force dementia. Anyone who watches TV will probably have seen scenes with (Muhammad) Ali (the boxer) and wondered why he acts so "out of it." Yes, he has dementia, and is still functioning. Any serious blow to the head may cause dementia, but that may or may not deteriorate further.
If you read about dementia, you will find that there are a number of diseases such as Parkinson's that can also cause dementia. As far as I know all diseases that cause dementia eventually cause death. Why? Because disease dementia causes the brain to shrink. When it shrinks to the point where the brain can no longer control body functions, what else can be expected except death?
Most experts consider that Alzheimer's disease is responsible for the majority of non blunt force dementia. Articles I have read say from 60 percent to 80 percent of non blunt force dementia cases are due to Alzheimer's.
A question is "Can Alzheimer's be positively diagnosed while the patient is still living? The next question is, "If it was possible to diagnose it positively 100 percent, are there treatments that can reverse or stop the progress?" The answers so far are all "no."
Some people including drug company representatives make varying claims that certain drugs can slow down the progress of the disease. I do not know if it slows down the inevitable ending of disease caused dementia, but it can enhance the victim's lifestyle. Certainly lifestyle can slow it down. Example: Reading, doing cross words, or other mind challenging activities can help the patient stay alert for a longer period of time. Exercise can make the body feel better. But, can any of the above increase the number of years in life?
The next question is "If a person has any disease type dementia, is that better or worse than Alzheimer's?" The answers to that are:
What is Alzheimer's?
What are the other diseases?
What does it matter?
I am speaking from experience. This experience I would not wish on anyone. My mother graduated second in her class from Storrs (University of Connecticut). She was a very independent woman who was very community oriented. She died at age 89 from "dementia" after a 13 year battle. The autopsy said Alzheimer's" disease shrunk her brain.
My wife had a degree in secondary math education, raised eight children, spent 16 years on the school board, and was active in the community. She died at age 78 from "dementia" after a 13 year battle. The autopsy said "Alzheimer's" caused her dementia and subsequent death.
What does "dementia" mean to you?
John E. Brockett