Research into dementia

In DPSNews.com.au an article Alzheimer’s Research: lost cause, written on 17 October 2012 leads with; “Some of Australia’s leading experts on Alzheimer’s disease say an alarming number of drug companies are abandoning research into treatments for dementia. The ABC reports despite huge advances in neuro-imaging and diagnostic techniques, there has been little progress when it comes treating the disease.” Read more…

I’ve been wondering if PWD should get too upset about this, and have thought deeply for some time about the research being done into dementia. Of course I would like a cure. Who wouldn’t??!! But the things missing from research are how to help people with a diagnosis of dementia or other chronic or terminal illnesses live well, how to maintain their well-being for as long as possible. I would like research into authentic rehabilitation, and for people with dementia to be treated no differently as a person following a stroke or brain injury. I have often wondered why we aren’t offered this type of pathway, as we would be rehabilitated to the best of medicine’s ability, and helped to get back to/stay in our place of employment if we were under 65.

It seems incredulous to me that PWD constantly need to justify the diagnosis of dementia, that living with it well is not seen as more positive. If a person had sustained a brain injury through a car accident or a stroke, or had an illness like MS, and was doing really well with rehabilitation, their success would be applauded and explored, rather than the extent of the injury questioned. If they had been referred to a brain injury unit, and proactively treated to live the very best life possible with the injury or disease they have, their sense of wellness would be positively impacted. Even if it is not a cure, surely it is proactive and a more responsible way to manage people with a terminal or chronic illness, to help them live as well as possible.

More evidence based research is needed into holistic, positive psychosocial and non pharmacological interventions, not just for a cure. How long have researchers been working on a cure for cancer, and I wonder how close they (in reality) are to finding a cure? But of course, a cure is the A1 best outcome of research into cancer, but maybe it is not the only research scientists need to be doing? As doctors generally refuse to believe anecdotal evidence of patients who have healed using alternative methods, it is the evidence based research we need to get them to support options that do work for some people, and in fact might work for many people if doctors offered and supported them as interventions. And these types of health interventions also make us feel better. Interestingly, most people will believe in a ‘God miracle’, but not a cure brought on by positive psychosocial or non pharmacological interventions intervention.

Evidence to support the benefits of Neuro plasticity and its ability to create new pathways in the brain is growing, and Norman Doidge in his book The Brain that changes itself cites examples of healing based purely on neuroplasticity training. Dr Bruce Lipton discusses using the brain and that “the brain controls the behaviour of the body’s cells”. He states “the overuse of prescription drugs provides a vacation from personal responsibility”.

Dr Ross Walker, a medical cardiologist in Australia, in his latest book The Five Stages of Health discusses how to “cut through the mixed messages we get in the media about maintaining our health. He cuts through the myths with his new book, cutting through the health hype”. Happiness, peace and love are far more important to your overall health than the purely medical or physical things, and have more to do with wellness than we might think. Three of the stages discuss more than medical health;  Stage two (2) discusses Environmental Health, stage four (4) Emotional Health and stage five (5) discusses Mind Health, highlighting non pharmacological interventions including the use of supplements, and the real value of things such as the cleansing of energies flowing through our bodies (our Chakras). He also cites a study showing MRI proof of a reduction of Alzheimer’s disease after a 12-month course of these therapies. He said in an interview whilst he couldn’t scientifically prove some of these things work he has patients who have healed themselves, so for him that is enough proof!

There is a body of clinical evidence slowly growing to support non pharmacological and psychosocial interventions, by respected medical doctors, Neuro physiotherapists and scientists. The South Australian government funded Dr Martin Seligman, a prominent psychologist as one of their Thinkers In Residence this year, who not only supports the notion of wellness based on positive psychology and lifestyle options, he travels the world promoting it. Based on my own experience, I believe if the medical community and service providers don’t start to embrace these interventions soon, not only are they doing their clients a grave disservice, the lost opportunities will increase the cost impact of dementia, ageing and illness worldwide.

One thought on “Research into dementia

  1. If you every doubt that you should be talking out about living with dementia you should re-read this blog. You are the most powerful advocate for people to change their attitudes. I am so proud of you. It is possible to change the world, you are living proof.

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