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posted: 8/24/2013 5:00 AM

Forgetfulness is no reason to panic

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Regarding the article on Alzheimer's on Aug. 19, I am no stranger to this devastating disease. My mother died of Alzheimer's at 75. Her symptoms first appeared at age 59, and she was formally diagnosed at 63 (in 1973). In those days, this early form of dementia was called "premature cerebral atrophy." As she got older, the diagnostic label changed to Alzheimer's. Within five years she got really bad, finally recognizing no one. The cup that held her unique personality slowly and painfully emptied. When she became aware of what was happening to her, we all suffered with her and for her.

The article I am referring to was informative but did not begin to tell the tragic story of this disease. In fact, it seemed to treat the extreme anguish of this illness rather lightly. That is to say, it presented the Alzheimer's story with a clinical distance and not with a closeness and empathy that such human suffering would demand.

In addition, its empirically based research orientation literally may have scared countless senior citizens out there. Most of us will not succumb to Alzheimer's, genetic predisposition, notwithstanding. We need not worry if we can't recall the name of an acquaintance we haven't seen for several years, or the male lead actor in "Sleepless In Seattle," or the restaurant we ate at last Sunday. Some call these simple memory lapses "cluttering" and not the beginning of serious dementia. Of course, there's a time to be concerned, and the article does a good job in pointing those times out.

So relax, senior fellows and gals, and let's not worry until we really have something to worry about.

Dr. Larry J. Powitz Clinical psychologist Arlington Heights

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