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The Myth of Alzheimer’s?

October 29, 2015

By Editor
The concept of dementia has been acknowledged since the time of the early Egyptians and Greeks who wrote of their elders losing their memories. Alzheimer’s was not considered a disease and thus given a medical label until many centuries later (in 1910) as a result of the work of Dr. Alois Alzheimer. Today Alzheimer’s disease has become one of our most feared diseases; an illness that turns individuals to mere shadows of their former selves, severely impacts families and threatens to overwhelm our healthcare system. But what if this may not be true? Is it really a disease?

Neuroscientist and Geriatric Neurologist Dr. Peter Whitehouse argues in his provocative book “The Myth of Alzheimer’s: What You Aren’t Being Told About Today’s Most Dreaded Diagnosis”, there is no such thing as Alzheimer’s disease. It isn’t because it is not a homogenous illness.  According to Whitehouse, a common physician refrain about the difference from one Alzheimer’s patient to another goes like this; “once you see one case of Alzheimer’s disease… you’ve seen one case of Alzheimer’s disease”.  
The label ‘Alzheimer’s disease’  (and labels are what he is strongly arguing against in his book) has been promoted by the scientific and medical communities as something that needs to be fought against and that only through drugs will scientists and medical professionals win the war against this “disease”.
 
Dr. Whitehouse theorizes that what people call Alzheimer’s disease is an accelerated form of cognitive aging attributed to numerous factors that have influenced the elderly throughout their lives. Some examples of these factors could be biological problems such as suffering from a head injury or psychological concerns such as depression. Environmental, social or cultural factors can also be attributed to the condition known as Alzheimer’s. Thus, the world-wide view of improving the lives of those with dementia under the current disease label may be limited by being fixated on a cure instead of promoting health and prevention through lifestyle modification.

Dr. Whitehouse will be the keynote presenter at “Navigating The Road Ahead; New Perspectives On The Aging Brain” the annual conference held by the Alzheimer Society London and Middlesex. His thought provoking morning presentation will leave attendees with a more humanistic perspective on caring for and living with dementia.

The afternoon session of the conference features Clinical Neuropsychologist Dr. Kelly Murphy from Baycrest whose presentation features some of those lifestyle modifications, psychosocial supports and strategies for living with cognitive impairment. She will specifically focus on Baycrest’s innovative program “Learning the Ropes for Living With Mild Cognitive Impairment” which has a goal of enabling individuals to be proactive with their aging brain health and to alleviate anxiety about age-related memory concerns.

Rounding out the programming will be an informative panel discussion with Parkwood’s Dr. Jennie Wells, Alzheimer Society Social Worker Carolyn Underwood and a client who lives with mild cognitive impairment.

This year’s Navigating the Road Ahead will expand our thoughts and knowledge on cognitive impairment and promote the health of anyone facing cognitive challenges -regardless of the labels that others attach to us.
 For more information or to register visit our website (alzheimerlondon.ca) or call Rebecca at 519-680-2404 ext. 242.