Alzheimer’s Disease and the Family: A Challenge of the New Millennium

  • Richard J. Ham
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 282)


When Alzheimer described his case--a two-page case report in a German medical journal in 1907 (1), he described progressive dementia in a relatively young woman, who died at age 55. Alzheimer had been intrigued by the case because she seemed to be suffering from a premature version of the senile dementia which, even then, was well recognized as a common illness among the very old. Perhaps even Alzheimer himself thought, as many have since, that dementia in the elderly was just an exaggeration of “normal aging.” He was impressed enough by the unusually early onset of this unfortunate woman’s illness that he applied the newly discovered silver stains to the autopsy material, and it was there he discovered the classic plaques and tangles which are still pathognomic of the disease that bears his name. It took many decades before clinicians as a group accepted the fact that the illness he had described is in fact the same illness which produces the majority of cases of progressive dementia in the elderly; the recognition that this very specific illness, with its characteristic histopathological findings underlying this alarmingly common illness of the very old, has occurred only over the past decade or so. Until quite recently, otherwise clinically accurate physicians accepted vague diagnostic labels like “cerebral atherosclerosis” or “organic brain syndrome” as being acceptable diagnostic descriptions for the chronic brain failure they noted in many of their older patients. The name “Alzheimer’s” has now caught on.


Dementia Patient Geriatric Medicine Demented Patient Progressive Dementia Common Illness 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard J. Ham
    • 1
  1. 1.Health Science Center at SyracuseState University of New YorkSyracuseUSA

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