Writer, Yahoo Celebrity
Aug 14, 2014
After days of intense speculation about Robin Williams’s private struggles in the wake of his suicide, his widow, Susan Schneider, on Thursday made a stunning revelation: the comic had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
“Robin spent so much of his life helping others. Whether he was entertaining millions on stage, film or television, our troops on the frontlines, or comforting a sick child — Robin wanted us to laugh and to feel less afraid,” Schneider said in a statement released via her husband’s publicist. “Since his passing, all of us who loved Robin have found some solace in the tremendous outpouring of affection and admiration for him from the millions of people whose lives he touched. His greatest legacy, besides his three children, is the joy and happiness he offered to others, particularly to those fighting personal battles.
“Robin’s sobriety was intact and he was brave as he struggled with his own battles of depression, anxiety as well as early stages of Parkinson’s disease, which he was not yet ready to share publicly,” she continued. “It is our hope in the wake of Robin’s tragic passing, that others will find the strength to seek the care and support they need to treat whatever battles they are facing so they may feel less afraid.”
Schneider’s statement comes a day after Williams publicist shot down reports that the genius comic was dealing with financial troubles.
Williams, 63, was found dead in his home in northern California on Monday. He hanged himself.
Meanwhile, the Marin County Sheriff’s Office is defending its handling of the case, specifically a press conference in which graphic details were released about Williams’s suicide.
“The Sheriff’s Office understands how the release of the kind of information you heard Tuesday may be viewed as disturbing by some, and as unnecessary by others, but under California law, all that information is considered ‘public information’ and we are precluded from denying access to it,” Marin County Sheriff’s Lt. Keith Boyd said in an email to Yahoo on Thursday. “These kinds of cases, whether they garner national attention or not, are very difficult for everyone involved. Frankly, it would have been our personal preference to withhold a lot of what we disclosed to the press yesterday, but the California Public Records Act does not give us that kind of latitude.”
In the coming days, there are more heartbreaking details yet to come.
“For the same reasons, we will likely be required to release to the media the 911 phone call we received from Mr. Williams’s residence and the fire dispatch tapes that resulted as well,” Boyd continued. “To date, we have received a staggering number of formal Public Act Requests to do so and we are required by law to make those disclosures within 10 days.”
Boyd explained their office is looking for a loophole to withhold the tapes, but it isn’t likely:
Like many diseases, Alzheimer’s disease is best treated when diagnosed at an early stage. Currently, only about 40 percent of patients are diagnosed early. I have observed that it is common for families to avoid seeking medical evaluation because of the stigma attached to Alzheimer’s disease.
Studies show that without treatment, patients typically live four to six years after diagnosis. With early diagnosis and treatment, patients may live 10 to 12 years. Some people question whether the patient has a good quality of life during those later years, as Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease. However, medication does help patients even in the late stages.
For example, a 77-year-old woman in our clinic was diagnosed at a moderate stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Staging is typically based on the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE), which asks the patient questions relating to memory, orientation, language, visual spatial function and executive function. A perfect score is 30. A score of 10 to 19 indicates a moderate stage, and a score lower than 10 is severe.
Our patient initially scored 11. After a year of treatment with a combination two-drug therapy, her score improved to 16, and she retained that score for two more years. The next year she had a sharp decline with a score of seven, but rebounded with a rise to 10 for three more years. Although she continued to have typical symptoms of memory loss, repeating herself and some confusion, she could still perform some housework, travel and go shopping. She liked sporting events and had no behavioral problems. As this case illustrates, even at a late stage, patients can benefit from proper management.
Hopelessness dominates various sources of information about Alzheimer’s disease, and much of the negative news emphasizes that there is no cure. However, 80 to 90 percent of patients benefit from treatment, remaining stable for a longer period of time and possibly improving for some period of time. Medications can help the patient continue activities of daily living and remain living at home. Treatment can also help control behavior problems and reduce caregiver burden.
Family and caregivers should be aware of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and seek medical evaluation early. Too often, diagnosis is delayed two to four years. Early symptoms include memory loss, misplacing items, decline in activities of daily living, difficulty with complicated tasks, getting lost and making financial mistakes. Additional symptoms occur as the disease progresses.
These signs of dementia can also appear with diseases and conditions other than Alzheimer’s. Early diagnosis can determine the exact cause of the problems and the appropriate treatment. Families and caregivers can best serve the patient and themselves by seeking early diagnosis and becoming well informed about the disease.
Caregivers urged to take precautions after elderly woman killed on Highway 400 in the Toronto area
CBC News Posted: Aug 08, 2014 9:38 AM ET Last Updated: Aug 08, 2014 9:38 AM ET
About 200,000 people in Ontario are living with dementia, more than half of whom will go missing at some point according to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada.
A Toronto-area family is grieving after an 83-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s disease was struck and killed on Highway 400 early Thursday morning after wandering away from home — and at least one expert is concerned this could happen more often given the aging population.
About 200,000 people in Ontario are living with dementia, and more than half of them will go missing at some point, according to the Alzheimer’s Society of Canada.
Many wander because they are looking for stimulation, according to Dr. Tiffany Chow, a senior clinician-scientist at the Ross Memory Clinic at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto.
“They’re unable to do the usual activities that kept them interested and engaged all their lives. And they’re just out there, looking for something,” Chow said Friday on CBC’s Metro Morning.
Patients also often go “back in time,” she said.
“They think they’re late for work or think they’re late picking the kids up, and they’re trying to resolve that any way they can. But they can’t access the car or don’t have car keys, so they get there on foot.
“They’re on a mission. It may be a misguided mission, but sometimes there’s a reason,” Chow said.
Confused seniors are usually found and returned by police, taxi drivers or even helpful strangers.
But families are encouraged to take preventive measures such as setting alarms or locking doors, provided someone is on the scene to unlock them in the event of a fire or other emergency. Alarms are also available that will go off if the person gets out of bed.
Caregivers can also make use of items that will identify and, in some cases, track the location of the patient. Bracelets that emit unique radio signals are available through the organization Project Lifesaver.
The Alzheimer’s Society recommends caregivers register their loved ones with the Finding Your Way program, which provides police with essential information and a photo of the person who’s wandered off.
In the Highway 400 incident in the Toronto area Thursday, the body of Chandrowci Basdeo, who was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s, was found on the road, close to a service station, amid some broken parts of a vehicle. A man has been charged with failing to remain at the scene.
Const. Robyn Kassam, who specializes in seniors’ safety for the York Regional Police, says the problem of wandering dementia patients could worsen.
“We’re going to see in a few short years more seniors than children,” Kassam told CBC News. “Does that mean we’re going to be getting more calls for service, more missing persons calls? Quite possibly.”
HARTFORD >> Researching a new drug compound on mice, Yale School of Medicine researchers were able to reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s on learning and memory, the school announced Tuesday.
Yale School of Medicine psychiatry professor Paul Lombroso and others studied thousands of molecules, which could become drugs, in search of one or more that would inhibit the negative effects on the brain of a specific type of protein. In this latest study, scientists are showing for the first time that inhibiting the negative effects of a specific protein can reverse memory and learning deficits associated with Alzheimer’s in mice.
Yale researchers are duplicating the research to see if they get the same results with rats and non-human primates. The hope is that they will one day come up with a drug that could be used to help treat people with Alzheimer’s disease.
The protein, STriatal-Enriched protein tyrosine Phosphatase, or STEP, is present in the brain. Those with Alzheimer’s disease have elevated levels of STEP in their brains. Inhibiting the negative effects of STEP can reverse some cognitive effects of Alzheimer’s, according to the research published Tuesday in the Public Library of Science’s online journal PLoS Biology.
Having too much of the STEP protein can interfere with synapses, causing disorders in thought and behavior. The protein can keep synapses in the brain from strengthening, which is needed to convert short-term memories into long-term memories.
There is a benefit to STEP in the brain. A simple explanation is that it interferes with certain receptors in the brain that allow a person to re-learn something a different way. Too much STEP activity, however, can keep a person from learning or remembering, according to the research.
Lombroso and his collaborators looked at about 150,000 molecular compounds, narrowing them down to those that would inhibit STEP activity. The researchers examined eight of the most promising of the compounds for further study on mice.
The researchers had success with a molecular compound, or drug, they call TC-2153. The drug turned out to be a successful STEP inhibitor.
“This novel STEP inhibitor has … given a real impetus now for pharma industries to look for additional STEP inhibitors,” Lombroso said.
The doctor said he may not have the exact drug that will end up on the market, “but the whole process of drug discovery is involved [in] screening many, many compounds and finding ones that are optimal for higher primates (people, that is).”
Christianne Kovel, of the state chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, said: “It is an exciting and busy time in Alzheimer’s disease research, with hundreds of potential therapies being tested at various stages of the research process, and many more being developed.”
More than 5 million people in the U.S. have Alzheimer’s disease, Kovel said.