What I've learned through my research or from my colleagues about the prevention and management of dementia is this: Even if we face a family history of Alzheimer's disease and are therefore more vulnerable to dementia, we can prevent the onset of its symptoms, like memory loss and confusion, or its progression.
My autistic son wasn't born because God was pissed off at America. My son was born because he was meant to be born, just as he is. My son was born so that I could learn how to be a better human being. He was born so he could teach me how to communicate without words. He was born so that I could learn how to listen with my heart and see things through touch.
Kay asks: My husband has dementia and the symptoms are getting so bad that I feel like a prisoner in my own home. I am embarrassed to take him to our daughter's house for fear of what he might do or say. I don't want our kids or grandkids to see him act this way. I am not prepared for these changes and I don't know if I can manage for much longer.
Rebecca asks: My grandmother is getting older and was recently diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer's Disease. She is still very healthy and independently living on her own. We have talked about her desire to remain at home and independent for as long as she can. How can we keep her safe in her home?
I had never even heard of "FTD" (frontotemperal dementia). Immediately, I hopped online and began researching. Within minutes I discovered the truth -- Dad was going to die. Shortly after that, he began misplacing his words, not knowing how to verbally express what he knew he wanted to say. Soon it got to the point that he could only answer yes or no questions...and then by December 2010, he lost his words entirely.
Dr. Howard Fillit, has written a booklet about keeping a healthy mind while aging. Although there is no guarantee that following the guidelines in this booklet will prevent Alzheimer's, they are not castor oil. Far from tasting bad, they will improve your life as you are living it. If they also turn out to prevent AD, that's a bonus.
The potential economic benefit of trained mathematicians and scientists may be obvious to policy makers, and as scientists we can appreciate this. It can be difficult to envision how a third grader's piano lessons will lead to future economic gains; however, the hidden benefits of language and music training on cognitive health and brain function should not be overlooked. It's time to put what's "extra" back into the curriculum and embrace arts programming in schools as an essential part of building and maintaining cognitive health both in the present and into the future.