Since 1906, when Dr. Alois Alzheimer first identified the disease that now carries his name, the dogged quest for a cure has continued to both entice and frustrate. Expectations are routinely raised and dashed, as promising paths turn into fruitless box canyons.
At this point in the search, each glimmer of hope seems to come with a looming cloud of probable disappointment, and the question, “Will I get it someday?” never seems far from our collective consciousness. Or at least from mine.
This is especially true on a day like this, when I’ve just learned via McKnight’s, the planet’s most trusted long-term care news source, that anxiety has been tied to the disease, and that learning a second language could protect against it.
That might be good news for my fear-free, multilingual friends, but not for me. Instead, it appears that the one thing I do super-well — worry — is going to inevitably cause my debilitating demise, and something I do super-badly — speaking a foreign tongue — could have prevented it.
Adding insult to irony and sealing my doom is the discovery that sleep apnea may increase Alzheimer’s risk. As I’ve previously written, I’m a prolific snorer, and one of the worst sleepers ever documented in modern times. I’ve never been able to get any proper rest with that CPAP mask strapped to my face, and now I’ll be too worried to sleep without it.
It’s incredible and sad that here in the 21st century, when miracles of modern medicine have become commonplace, a solution doesn’t appear imminent for the more than five million Americans who suffer from the disease — not to mention the millions more who will someday.
The treatments that show the most actual promise seem to only be successful in mice, which are not technically people. And now even a massive drug company is giving up and pulling out of Alzheimer’s research entirely. This isn’t a good sign.
But someday soon, probably out of the blue and from a line of entirely unexpected inquiry, the cure will suddenly reveal itself, and one of the nation’s leading causes of death will finally be defeated.
When that news comes, even if it’s in the middle of the night, I’ll be ready to hear it. Because I’ll already be lying here wide awake, afraid to worry or snore, and wishing I knew how to say that in Spanish.
Things I Think is written by Gary Tetz, a national Silver Medalist and regional Gold Medal winner in the Association of Business Press Editors (ASBPE) awards program. He has amused, informed and sometimes befuddled long-term care readers worldwide since his debut with the former SNALF.com at the end of a previous century. He is a multimedia consultant for Consonus Healthcare Services in Portland, OR.