By Howard Fillit, MD
His memory loss became apparent first. Like many people experiencing Alzheimer's in its early stages, my father began misplacing important objects and forgetting the names of people. As the disease progressed, his conversational skills became increasingly impaired, but through all of his changes, our emotional bond remained strong.
Eventually, it became impossible for my stepmother to care for him at home and he entered a nursing facility.
I knew my father was following a typical Alzheimer's course. After more than 35 years of geriatric medical practice, I have watched this devastating disease unfold in similar ways for thousands of patients. But watching my father's mind deteriorate was uniquely painful.
Desperate, my family asked: "Isn't there anything you can do? You're a world-famous geriatrician!" The question broke my heart. Beyond ensuring that my father received the best possible care, there was little I could do to improve his outlook. There were no drugs that could slow or stop the disease's progression, or effectively alleviate his symptoms.
That is still true today, and it's the reason I am passionate about the work of the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation. We are funding some of the most novel drug discovery research on the planet -- research that will one day allow us to truly do something for patients like my father. Research that will pave the way for the discovery and development of drugs that prevent, treat and slow the course of Alzheimer's and other dementias.
Right now, the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation is funding 85 drug discovery initiatives in five countries. But there are many opportunities that are going unfunded. With your support, we can accelerate promising Alzheimer's drug discovery research.
In his last days, hospitalized with common Alzheimer's complications, my father had a rare moment of lucidity. As I left his room for the final time, he called my name, looked me in the eyes and said, "I love you, son." Tragically, though he had lost his mind, the deep emotions of fatherhood remained until the very end.
It's too late for my father and many other fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. But it's not too late for the 44 million people worldwide still suffering from the disease -- and the many more who will eventually get it.
Together, we CAN conquer Alzheimer's disease.