HAMDEN--Many families are familiar with the physical and emotional strain of dealing with Alzheimer's. But there's hope thanks to a major study underway, which involves medical centers in Connecticut, that there will eventually be a way to stop or reverse the effects of the disease.
What 25 years ago used to be known as senility is now the most common form of dementia, and Alzheimer's is more prevalent, in large part, because our average life and expectancy is increasing.
Dr. Alan Siegel, a partner at Geriatric and Adult Psychiatry of Hamden, tried to explain Alzheimer's succinctly: "I try to tell people they need to understand what it's like to have a memory impairment," said Siegal. "Not that you can't remember where you left your keys, it's that you can't remember what your keys are for."
Dr. Siegal's office is one of 38 medical facilities nationwide administering what's known as the Noble Study, which uses an experimental drug. "It's a medication that, we hope, based on some early studies, will actually improve one's cognitive functioning and improve one's memory abilities," said Siegal.
As of now, the only medications approved by the Federal Drug Administration merely slow down the progression of Alzheimer's.
Dr. Siegal says the Noble Study requires that a patient have a diagnosis of Alzheimer's, be between the ages of 50 and 85 and be mildly to moderately impaired. Another requirement is those with Alzheimer's must be receiving medication of another sort and seeing a doctor regularly. There is no limit to the number of people Dr. Siegal will accept.
During the study, which takes roughly a year, he will see patients about once a month to both dispense the study medication and monitor how the patient is doing.
"Half of them, in this study, will be on standard care and a placebo," hence the requirement that the patients are being treated by another doctor as well. "Half will be on standard care and the experimental drug," Siegal said.
One of the many signs to look for to identify if your family member has Alzheimer's is to pay attention to the person's car to see if you notice a bunch of dents or dings. Dr. Siegal said he always asks caregivers about this. "They'll tell me 'now that I think of it doc, it's been six or seven months and I've noticed a series of small little accidents. I asked dad about it and he said I don't know somebody must've hit me in the parking lot.'"
To read about the Noble Study, log onto www.thenoblestudy.org. Dr. Alan Siegal can be reached at 203-288-0414.