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Breaking the Cycle of Despair for People with Dementia

In their new book, Better Living with Dementia: Implications for Individuals, Families, Communities, and Societies, Penn Nursing’s Nancy Hodgson and Drexel’s Laura Gitlin dissect the challenge of living with the disease for individuals who have it, and for their caregivers. You can meet the authors at the book’s launch event on Wednesdy, November 28, 2018 (5 to 8 PM) in the Mitchell Auditorium on the Drexel University campus.

This is an excerpt from the new book “Better Living with Dementia: Implications for Individuals, Families, Communities, and Societies” published in June by Elsevier.

In the past 20 years, we’ve made tremendous progress in understanding the underlying pathophysiology of dementia. Nevertheless, we have a long way to go before we fully comprehend this complex condition, and understand how to prevent, cure, and manage it. 

Early trials of solanezumab, one of Eli Lilly’s most promising Alzheimer’s drugs, for example, showed a slowing disease progression for some people living with mild cognitive impairment. However, in the most recent Phase III trial, those receiving the drug fared no better than those in the placebo group, leaving the field without much hope for an immediate disease-modifying treatment. Pfizer also recently announced termination of its dementia drug-discovery program. 

Beyond drugs, there are other treatments worth serious consideration that may modify disease trajectory, reduce excess disabilities, or compress morbidity and disease burdens. But to date, a singular focus on research to find a cure has dominated policy discourse and resource allocation. This creates a “cycle of despair,” perpetuating barriers to developing and accessing effective care and services. To move forward, we must construct a new paradigm, one that involves viewing, understanding, and acting on the biological, social, psychological, and environmental context in which dementia occurs and transpires.

To read the full Penn Today article, developed by Michele Berger, science news officer in University Communications, please click here.

To learn more about the book launch and to RSVP, visit the Penn Nursing Calendar here.

Nancy Hodgson, PhD, RN, FAAN, is the Anthony Buividas Term Chair in Gerontology and an Associate Professor of Nursing at Penn Nursing.

Laura N. Gitlin, PhD, FAAN, is a Distinguished University Professor and Dean of the College of Nursing and Health Professions at Drexel University.