Doctor promotes social support for Alzheimer’s victims

By By Patrick Muir

By Patrick Muir

Utah is a supportive place to haveAlzheimer’s disease because of its”good spiritual environment with goodpeople,” said renowned neurologist andbest-selling author Dr. Oliver Sacks atProvo’s Marriott Center last week.”No person experiences the diseasethe same. It depends on their character,environment and how they are treated,”Sacks said.Sacks spoke strongly about how general”social attitudes” need to changetoward the condition. “Sometimes thediagnosis for Alzheimer’s sounds worsethan the diagnosis for cancer,” Sackssaid.”Huge amounts can be done in thehome and family. It’s so important tostill recognize the person.”Holly Hansen, a junior majoringin sociology, has seenthe devastating effects ofAlzheimer’s on her grandfather.”It’s sad to see where heis now when you rememberwhat he used to be like. Heused to be my nice sweetgrandpa, but now because hecan’t really remember whoI am; he’s mean a lot of thetime. But I still love him.”People who experienceAlzheimer’s usually recognizeit first themselves, accordingto Sacks. A famouscase is that of Ralph WaldoEmerson.When people asked if hewas well, he would respond,”Yes, I’m well. I’ve lost mymental facilities, but I’mquite well.””Memory is usually thefirst causality of Alzheimer’s,”Sacks said. But Sacksassured the audience thatforgetting “proper names” isnot a sign of Alzheimer’s, butrather when people begin toforget things that had justhappened.”It’s still not clear if Alzheimer’sis a disease or justan exaggerated form of aging,”Sacks said.”I think it will be a decadeor two or three when Alzheimer’swill no longer exist,but for the moment it iscrucial to say how much wecan still do.”Billy McKean, a juniordouble majoring in biologyand chemistry said, “BecauseAlzheimer’s seriously affectsso many people I think it’svery important to researchways to fight it.”The incidence of Alzheimer’sdisease, a neurologicaldisease that effects 4.5 millionpeople in the UnitedStates, increases with ageand is very rare amongpeople younger than 60. I taffects up to 50 percent ofpeople older than 85, and therisk increases with age. Forexample, the percentage ofpeople over the age of 65, therisk of developing the diseasedoubles for every fiveyearincrement.Sacks is famous for his encounterwith a group of survivorsof “sleeping sickness,”an epidemic that killed millionsfrom 1916 to 1927.In 1966, Sacks administeredan experimental drugL-dopa to the group and witnessedthem awaken after 40years of being in a strangefrozen state. His best-sellingbook about their experienceinspired the Academy Awardnominee for Best Picture,”Awakenings,” staring RobertDe Niro and Robin [email protected]