Sam Bauman: Book’s sobering Alzheimer’s facts are worth a read

The June 24 edition of The New Yorker has an extensive article on the current state of research into Alzheimer’s dementia. It’s written by Jerome Groopman, a professor at Harvard Medical School. Seniors and RSVP Respite volunteers will find it worth reading.

It’s not an upbeat report.

“Three decades of Alzheimer’s research has done little to change the course of the disease,” he writes. But there are some positive studies under way. The problem seems to be no one is exactly sure what causes Alzheimer’s dementia.

Several new tests and studies are in the works, mostly dealing with the beta-amyloid protein that collects in plaques in the brain.

But it isn’t clear that the amyloid is the cause rather than a symptom. There are the Tauists and the Baptists, with conflicting view of cause and cure. This year, the National Institutes of Health agreed to sponsor an extensive test to the tune of $36 million — small when considered funds for heart research, for instance.

One of the problems of Alzheimer’s is diagnosis. It’s not definite until the patient dies and an autopsy confirms the dementia.

Nothing in the article will make serving a client in a Respite case any easier. It is mostly about where science is and where it is going. Different directions, different theories. But it points out the looming problems, estimating the average cost for caring for an Alzheimer’s patient annually at $41,000 to $56,000.

Hiking for seniors

Yep, the snow is almost all gone except for a few pockets high up. And while we’ll have periods of high temperatures, there will be cooler days when the trails beckon. And we’ve got plenty that are perfect for seniors.

I’ve written about Dead Man’s Creek tail, across Washoe Lake Park. It is a moderate climb of perhaps 3 miles round-trip and an elevation gain of 300 feet, with a fine view of the lake from the gazebo at the end.

For a more sedate wandering, Carson Riverview Park may be just right. This is a 109-acre floodplain park, beginning at the Korean War Memorial at the east end of Fifth Street. There’s plenty of parking, shelter, water and places to sit and think long thoughts. The trail leads down to the Carson River, right now still flowing but slowing down as the snowmelt ends.

A slightly different recreation area is the Silver Saddle Ranch, off Fifth Street to River Road. This again traces the Carson River, with 702 acres. You can park right at the ranch and walk in. A BLM agent opens the park at 8 a.m. and closes the gate at 5 p.m.

The Mexican Ditch flows under the bridge at the ranch and offers another hiking trail that wanders near the river and at times up 50 or 60 feet. The ditch is leftover from the days when gold or silver ore was processed. This is a gentle hike with plenty of shade and places to stop and simply enjoy the silence and the birds. Some critters, but nothing to get worried about. This can be as long as you like or as short as befits.

If you’re in the mood (and shape) for a more demanding trek, park at the point on River Road where is makes a left turn for the Silver Saddle Ranch. You’ll spot a trail head nearby that leads through sagebrush to the back of Prison Hill. It’s slightly uphill to the beginning of the trail up Prison Hill. This can be demanding so we’ll go into it later. But it’s a lot of fun and the views of the Carson River are splendid — all that greenery along with river and the trails on the other side of the river.

Sam Bauman writes about senior issues for the Appeal.


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