This past week I trekked to Washington, D.C., to attend a conference on the Prevention of Alzheimer’s Disease and Cognitive Decline. Sound boring? Well, if you’re fortunate enough to live past sixty, it becomes a timely topic. For that matter, it becomes a timely topic for everyone who may not think they are aging but know that their parents are.
The conference was sponsored by NIH, the National Institute of Health. I had never visited NIH before and I was astounded by this massive campus dedicated to health and science. Years ago, when we travelled to DC with our children, we would visit the Smithsonians and the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial; and, I admit, I would get teary-eyed, proud of our nation. So when I arrived at the NIH, I found myself once again in awe of America—Golly, our taxes help support all this good stuff!
You see, I am a believer in both the need for good government and good science and so at NIH, it would seem, is the intersection of both.
Were there absolutes given, black and white answers made? No. No quickie sound bites to deny the reality that Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline are complex issues. Although there was no magic wand waving, I felt gratified that here was a place that brought together many scientists from all over the country who were willing to confer with each other. They presented not only their own research but also the documented extensive researches of scientific literature to assess Alzheimer’s through many lenses: environmental, socio-cultural, and nutritional, to name a few.
This particular conference was meant to define what direction future research should take, not lay down absolutes. Nevertheless, there were some promising takeaways for prevention of cognitive decline.
I was drawn to this conference primarily because I work with an aging population at a local retirement facility. Cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease are uneasy facts of life there, especially for the family members who witness such decline. The following is a list of some resources for those dealing with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia in their family:
Alzheimer’s Disease: Unraveling the mystery
NIH Publication Number: 08-3782
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center
Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center of the National Institute on Aging
Love, Laughter and Mayhem: Caregiver Survival Manual
by Cindy Keith R.N., B.S.