Are we ready for a blood test predicting Alzheimer’s?
Not so fast.
The research results are great, but what do we do with them?
Since the nineties when I jumped into this field with both feet and became a national family caregiver spokesperson (I was told others were not speaking publicly), there has been a STIGMA of DEMENTIA…it continues nearly two decades later.
Researchers from Georgetown University, the University of California at Irvine, and four other institutions identified ten lipids (fats) in our blood that can predict mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or Alzheimer’s. Low levels of these biomarkers indicate a strong likelihood (90%) that one will develop one of these forms of dementia within three years.
Let’s say I ask my doctor to order this test and it shows low levels of these ten fats in my blood. (I started taking medication for high cholesterol, so it’s unlikely I’ll have low lipid levels).
What will I do with the results?
IF I’m seventy years of age or older (age of the study participants), I’ll start getting my affairs in order.
Can I apply for long-term care and in good conscience deny there’s anything wrong because the researchers promise to keep the results private? That’s a question of integrity. If two people have an affair and promise to keep it a secret …? Well, we know how that often ends.
Let’s take this hypothetical “What if…?” a step further.
What happens when I share the test results with my friends and family?
Driving: Brenda, how about if I drive, today? Tomorrow? Next week? Everyday?
Investing: Ahhh, Brenda, are ya’ sure you can keep up with all that information? I mean that’s a lot of money to risk.
Girls’ Time Out at a Tropical Destination: (Still waiting to fulfill this goal.) Hmmm, I’m not sure I’m able to join you. (What I really mean is: I’m afraid with your dementia, you’re going to be too much to handle.)
Nothing has changed, since the diagnosis except for people’s reactions; and hence the STIGMA.
Just like cancer and HIV AIDS scared us (Don’t touch, you might catch it.) we need to move beyond this stage to understanding. Lose an arm or a leg, and you’re traumatized for sure, but you can also figure out how to adjust. Lose your brain cells–now that’s a totally different situation. You lose pieces of who you are–your identity.
Fifty-something Norman McNamara, living with Lewy body dementia in the UK, launched The Purple Angel organization for dementia awareness. It’s gotten the attention of the Prime Minister of England and people around the world.
We need to raise awareness and make sure the voices of those who walk with dementia are heard. We can save ourselves a lot of heartache in the future if we pay attention, now.
Years ago, Former First Lady Rosalyn Carter quoted a colleague when she said there are four kinds of people in this world:
- Those who are caregivers
- Those who will be caregivers
- Those who were caregivers
- Those who know caregivers.
Statistically speaking, with 36 million people worldwide living with dementia, no matter how much we try to turn the other way, we’re connected. We must create greater awareness in order for research results to be received warmly and not with the STIGMA today’s pioneers living with dementia endure.
There is one more group of people in the world:
5. Those who will need caregivers.
Which one are you? It’s only a matter of time.
For more information about the new blood test and a brief video, visit these links below then let us know what you think. Let your voice be heard (or at least, seen).
New Blood Test can Predict Alzheimer’s. Mild Dementia – Georgetown University
Blood Test May Predict Early Alzheimer’s Disease – ABC News
[Updated 11/4/2017: Link no longer available]