Recently, I heard from Dr. Christopher Tokin, an ABC health writer, requesting an interview for an article about new therapies for Alzheimer’s disease. After reading my blog and one of my books, he wanted to include information about Jim in an article introducing the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Vancouver.
Being the skeptical person I am, the first order of business was to check out Dr. Tokin to make sure he was the person he said he was. After a Google search, I was confident that Dr. Tokin was a health writer for ABC news. I had no problem answering his questions as long as he did not ask for my social security number, birth date or bank account number.
I was getting ready to leave on an Alaskan cruise so I used my time in Seattle to answer Dr. Tokin’s interview questions. I’ve been interviewed before by national news media including a telephone interview while I was at a conference in Boston. I know that national media will interview several people and then choose one or two of the stories to include in the article. When I read the previous article, my interview was not included. This time, I just didn’t mention the interview and thought I’d wait to see if Jim’s story was included in the article.
My first day at work after my cruise, I heard from my son.
“Did you know there’s an article online about dad?” He went on to tell me he was browsing the news on his cell phone when he saw an Alzheimer’s article. He started reading it and realized the Jim Fisher in the article was his dad.
“Dr. Tokin interviewed me before I left on the cruise,” I said. “He was going to send me a link to the article when it was published.” I looked at the news feed on my phone and the article was indeed in the health section.
A few hours later, I received an email from Dr. Tokin with the link to the article. By then, the article had been shared on Facebook.
This morning, I went in to read some of the news from the conference and one of the articles is “New Drugs Aimed at Ending Alzheimer’s Decline.” This in Dr. Tokin’s article. He used Jim’s story to personalize an article on new drug treatments. Two of the drugs targeting beta-amyloid, Eli Lily’s solenezumab and Pfizer’s bapineuzamab, are in Phase III clinical trials.
The Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference gives the world a chance to learn about research targeting 2025 as the date to find a cure for Alzheimer’s. Scientists try many approaches to diagnosing Alzheimer’s early and developing therapies to target the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s—beta amyloid plaques and tau tangles.
As the week unfolds, we will learn more about new studies like the one that shows a change in walking can indicate Alzheimer’s disease before cognitive symptoms appear. People with undiagnosed Alzheimer’s disease may begin to walk slower and take shorter steps. The interesting thing about gait is that some people performed well on the clinical tests, but at home, family members observed that their loved one walked much slower. Walking speed, like other symptoms of dementia, rely on family observations as a key component of making a diagnosis.
When you know someone well, you notice things about them that doctors don’t. A ten-minute exam might miss many of the symptoms of serious brain disorders. When Jim developed dementia, it was my observations of changes in his behavior and skills that convinced the doctor that it was more than depression.
We lost Jim more than seven years ago, but he is not forgotten by the family that loved him. Jim would have been pleased to know that his story provides an illustration of hope for the 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer’s.
“New Drugs Aimed at Ending Alzheimer’s Decline.”
copyright © July 2012 Linda Fisher