Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Alzheimer's Project

HBO's Alzheimer Project approaches the manifestations of the disease from the standpoint of everyone who is impacted or involved though the main narrative is that of the patient suffering from it.

The pain that comes from the gradual erasure of memory is one that is felt very deeply by loved ones - the spouse who becomes a stranger after years of being in a happy marriage, the children who can no longer shoulder the burden of care-giving and are forced to move the ailing parent to a nursing home facility and the grand kids who long for the love of the grandparent they once knew.

Then there are the ominous signs - forgetting words, lapses of memory, taking longer than usual to say something - that the people experience at the onset of the disease. At several points, hearing the patients describe the early signs you can't help wondering if we should not play closer attention to what we routinely dismiss as absent-mindedness specially when under stress.

The film follows several patients who are coping with the knowledge that they have Alzheimer's and are in a sense at the beginning of the end. They find sustenance through support groups of fellow-sufferers or in the company of a grand-child who wants to be reassured that they are still loved and recognized.

They hold on to the here and now fiercely trying to chronicle their lives while they are still be able too - one woman paints pictures another man writes a blog. Yet amid all this suffering and sense of futility, there is hope in the progress scientists have made in finding a cure if not a prevention for the disease.

In the film Momentum In Science, one scientist calls today a magical time when the bits and pieces of knowledge around Alzheimer's are finally coming together bringing the discovery of a remedy within the realm of possible. Until that happens,
Alzheimer's will continue to be among the most dreaded diseases - causing patient and caregiver to suffer alike.

1 comment:

Tracy said...

I had a chance to see a pre-screening of the HBO special, and it was great. The segment that I saw showed why clinical studies are so important. Current Alzheimer's therapies treat the symptoms associated with the disease, not the disease itself. There is a new study that explores if Bapineuzumab (Bapi), an investigational drug mentioned in the HBO special, can help slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Patients and families affected by Alzheimer’s can visit to see if they might be eligible to enroll.