Are fears of Alzheimer’s overblown?

Margaret Morganroth Gullette’s op-ed in last week’s NYTimes dared to suggest that our fears about Alzheimer’s
may be overblown.  The Brandeis-based writer said:

 The mere whiff of perceived memory loss can have terrible consequences in an insecure economy in which midlife workers are
regularly (and illegally) laid off on account of their age. This epidemic of anxiety around memory loss is so strong that many older adults seek help for the kind of day-to-day forgetfulness that once was considered normal …Greater public awareness of Alzheimer’s, far from reducing the ignorance and stigma around  the disease, has increased it.

Today’s letters to the editor included several outraged responses

Having witnessed the disease firsthand, I can truly say there is something worse than death…I truly hope that Margaret
Morganroth Gullette and those she loves never experience the disease as my family has. I implore her not to use her public platform to minimize the horror that is Alzheimer’s.

But, Douglas Powell, described as the author “The Aging Intellect” and a psychology instructor at the Harvard Medical
School, came to her defense

Studies that followed up mildly impaired elders for three to five years found that a large minority remained stable and about 14 percent returned to normal. No one yet knows why.

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