Globe, WBUR on Alzheimer’s disease

Both The Globe and WBUR have had recent series on Alzheimer’s disease.

On Sunday, the Globe ran the last of a four-part, year-long series on a family coping losing their patriarch to early stage Alzheimer’s.

Bruce Vincent sits at a table in a stark room at Massachusetts General Hospital’s Charlestown research center, just a few minutes into what will be an hourlong test of his fading memory.

“Next, I will read you a list of words,’’ says research assistant Natacha Lorius, who sits across the table from him. “I need you to repeat the words back to me, in any order.

Suds, noose, spree, proxy, simile, nectar,’’ she says, reading slowly from a list of about 15 words.

When she finishes, Vincent, still raven haired and nearly wrinkle free at 49, stares at her for several seconds.

“I don’t remember any of them,’’ he says.

Alzheimer’s has recently quickened its devastating pace, snatching from Vincent more social skills and abilities than it had since his diagnosis three years earlier. He has a form of the disease that strikes at a young age.

Gone in the latest slide is the easy back and forth of conversation, the ability to sort and price products at the family’s Westminster grocery store that he once ran, and his recall of words, and sometimes entire conversations, from a few minutes earlier. Often he hovers, almost childlike, looking for direction in everyday tasks such as serving salad from a bowl to a dinner plate.

When Vincent shoveled his driveway after the snowstorm last month, he inexplicably walked dozens of yards to the backyard to empty each scoop, instead of simply tossing the snow to the side.

As the disease accelerates, Vincent’s family treasures all the more the bedrock pieces of his personality that remain — his optimism, his gentle nature, and especially his boyish humor.

“If I didn’t have Alzheimer’s,’’ Vincent confided after completing the memory-testing session, “that would have been a blast.’’ 


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