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Alzheimer's screening, info sessions spread hope about treatment

"What we are trying to make a push for is early detection because there is no cure for Alzheimer's. It can be treated, and they can make it more comfortable for sufferers," said Alice Horner, the association's Capital District program manager. "This is really aimed at baby boomers who are hitting the Alzheimer's roles big time."

Screenings will include the "mini mental state examination," a 10-minute exam that helps doctors assess cognitive function. Through conceptual problems, counting and memory exercises, doctors will be able to better determine if one shows the early signs of the disease.

But the latest rounds of informational sessions and screenings are more than that. For the first time, the association has a hopeful message. That message is that doctors, like Holub, are beginning to understand what causes the disease, and in doing so have been able to better treat it. To date, there are five medications on the market that help, and several more are currently undergoing Federal Drug Administration testing and could be available soon.

For the first time in years, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for the disease's treatment, said Horner.

According to the association, the official number of Americans suffering from Alzheimer's was upped to 5.1 million from 4.5 million in an April report. The same information also shows that one in eight people older than 65 years old will have the disease.

"There was a sense that Alzheimer's was a natural step in aging. Now we know that it's a disease that's treatable, and when treated helps people live healthier lives," said Holub.

That's happened in the last 22 years, he said. Now with as many as 50 to 100 people coming to the sessions and screenings, scores of people are getting treated early and combating the disease early on.

To register or get information about the Aug. 11 session call (800) 272-3900 and ask for Jamie. To register for the Aug. 15 screening call 438-2217 ext. 203 and ask for Alice.

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