By Becca Verda
Whenever I ask people what gives them hope in the face of Alzheimer’s, their first answer is almost always the same: A cure, of course. I hear it all the time. For caregivers, people living with memory loss and those who have lost loved ones to dementia, research is the beacon of hope they can all reach to even when current advancements won’t change their fate. This is not to say that services and support to people living with dementia now aren’t just as important. The growing need for support is paramount to our mission at the Alzheimer’s Association and those caring for and living with dementia. However, what people affected by Alzheimer’s and dementia really want to see is the end of this disease.
Research is complicated, and the science is just the beginning. Research depends on a collaborative, international community of scientists, researchers, and clinicians supported by significant private and governmental funding. We can see the culmination of these things at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference (AAIC), the world’s largest forum for the dementia research community. International investigators, clinicians and care providers gather to share the latest study results, theories and discoveries that bring the world closer to breakthroughs in dementia science. Research shared at AAIC comes from years of trials, countless grant applications and diverse volunteer participants to pursue promising discoveries. Despite its complexities, research is the ultimate solution we can all reach to and it’s the solution to Alzheimer’s and dementia that we can all propel forward. By supporting local researchers, scientists and institutions as volunteers in research trials our community can come together to find a cure.
Over 30 individuals leading research in our community will be at AAIC lending a voice from home to crucial advancements. Research done at the University of Washington and Washington State University depend on local residents living with dementia and healthy individuals alike to participate in studies and advance the international communities’ understanding of the disease. Research volunteers are empowered by the experience. Brian Whitney of Manson, Washington, has attended AAIC as a volunteer and participant in the DIAN-TU, Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network Trial. Brian qualifies for the DIAN-TU study because he carries a rare deterministic gene mutation that will someday develop into Alzheimer’s disease. For Brian and his family, this research means hope, “It’s the first time that they’ve ever looked at a drug and tried treatment on people before they showed symptoms of Alzheimer’s. That’s exciting to me. To me that’s a reason to hope,” said Brian.
Seattle writer Ann Hedreen advances research as a healthy research participant. Unlike Brain, Ann isn’t currently showing signs or symptoms of dementia but still shares Brian’s hope for a cure. When Ann’s mother was diagnosed with younger onset Alzheimer’s she and her siblings were able to spend time with their mother, give her the joy of grandchildren and provide simple pleasures for her throughout the disease. But there was still a frustration with how little they could do to help treat her disease. “What we could never give her was our sorrow and rage about Alzheimer’s” said Ann, “so what could we do with those emotions? One answer I found: volunteer for research.” Research helps people like Ann be a part of the most significant solution we can find to the pain dementia causes people; a cure.
Because people like Ann, Brian and others like them support research, the research community in Washington and Northern Idaho is strong, and growing. But it needs more help and support to continue to advance toward treatments. Today, at least 50,000 volunteers with and without Alzheimer’s disease are urgently needed to participate in more than 130 trials actively enrolling participants. You can join them. Don’t just hope for a cure. Help us find one. Learn more about research trials in your area through the Alzheimer’s Association TrialMatch program today.