July 15, 1910: The Textbook of Psychiatry is published. Emil Kraepelin’s book was the first to officially name the presenile dementia syndrome after his friend, Alois Alzheimer who first identified the disease. Auguste D, who was 55 when diagnosed, died in 1906 from the condition. During the next few years, eleven similar cases were reported in medical literature and were referring to the disease as Alzheimer’s since he was the first to describe the symptoms and the course of the disease. For most of the 20th century, the diagnosis was reserved for those whose senility began before an expected age. Alzheimer patients were diagnosed between the ages of 45 and 65. In 1977, it was noted that the clinical pathology was nearly identical regardless of age of onset with Alzheimer’s and those suffering from “normal” senility. The causation may be different.
Dementia, and specifically Alzheimer’s disease, is one of the most costly diseases for society in the developed world. The cost of care includes both nursing home admission as well as home health care along with the cost of loss of productivity for both the patient and the caregiver, since care is needed around the clock. The cost of dementia around the world has been estimated to be about $160 billion annually with the cost of Alzheimer’s disease in the US costing about $100 billion each year. The greatest cost is incurred with long-term care provided by professionals – nursing home care. This accounts for about ⅔ of the bill for the US.
The main role of caregiver usually falls to a spouse or child of the patient. Home care is usually preferable for all involved, but the cost is still great both in terms of lost productivity and the toll it takes on the caregiver. Since there is no hope for recovery and the patient inevitably and inexorably declines, there is a psychological cost which compounds the other aspects of care giving, making it one of the reasons that dementia caregivers have such high rates of physical and mental disorders. The personality changes in the patient can include depression, behavioral disturbances, hallucinations, sleep disruption, and social isolation. Without supervision, the patient can wander off and not know how to return home.
Alzheimer’s is an equal opportunity disease and some famous people have been diagnosed with it. President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Harold Wilson were both victims of the disease. Actress Rita Hayworth, actor Charlton Heston, authors Terry Pratchett and Iris Murdoch, and Nobel Prize winner Charles Kao were all patients. Many novels and films have been produced using the disease as part of the storyline. Research into ways to safely and effectively treat the disease continues with more than 400 treatments having made it to some stage of testing. To date, there is no cure.
It seems that when you have cancer you are a brave battler against the disease, but when you have Alzheimer’s you are an old fart. That’s how people see you. It makes you feel quite alone. – Terry Pratchett
No matter who you are, what you’ve accomplished, what your financial situation is – when you’re dealing with a parent with Alzheimer’s, you yourself feel helpless. The parent can’t work, can’t live alone, and is totally dependent, like a toddler. As the disease unfolds, you don’t know what to expect. – Maria Shriver
My father started growing very quiet as Alzheimer’s started claiming more of him. The early stages of Alzheimer’s are the hardest because that person is aware that they’re losing awareness. And I think that that’s why my father started growing more and more quiet. – Patti Davis
I hate Alzheimer’s. It is one of the most awful things because, here is a loved one, this is the woman or man that you have loved for 20, 30, 40 years, and suddenly, that person is gone. They’re gone. They are gone. – Pat Robertson
Also on this day: What Does it Say? – In 1799, the Rosetta Stone is discovered.
Vast Wasteland – In 1976, the term “couch potato” was first used.
Pacific Aero Products – In 1916, the company that would become Boeing was incorporated.
Mozilla – In 2003, the Mozilla Foundation was established.