Gert Schloff took time out from helping early voters to attend a talk on Alzheimer’s disease.
“You’re my hero,” the 89-year-old told Dr. Joel Ross as he finished his presentation at the Senior Health and Wellness Fair hosted by the JCC of Central New Jersey in Scotch Plains.
The Oct. 24 event, a collaboration of the JCC, the Fanwood Scotch Plains YMCA, and The Chelsea of Fanwood, drew around 80 people.
Ross outlined the difference between normal age-related memory loss and “abnormal” deterioration, “the kind that evicts you from your own life.” He sought to light a fire under his audience, urging them to participate in the task of conquering Alzheimer’s.
Though he acknowledged little can be done to prevent or reverse the disease, he said that knowing the facts puts one in a better position to prepare for what’s coming, and to alleviate the problems it brings. And, perhaps most important, it might help researchers find a cure.
“After family, what’s more important than your mind?” he asked. “This is a disease that evicts you from your life. Helping to find a cure could be your legacy. There is no animal research on this. It takes people — as many as possible.”
Schloff said she is concerned about her own brain health, and has witnessed the disease’s impact on others. “And seeing how bad it is for their parents, I don’t understand why their children won’t go and get tested, to see if they have a genetic predisposition,” she added.
Ross, founder of Memory Enhancement Centers of America, said his goal is to see Alzheimer’s, if not cured, at least become a manageable chronic illness, “the way Magic Johnson has managed his AIDS.”
Medications to treat Alzheimer’s on the market now ease symptoms for between six and 12 months, but no more, said Ross, who has served as principal investigator or sub-investigator for nearly every medication tested to treat the disease since 1994.
Lifestyle choices can help, he said. He recommended eating fresh, pesticide-free food “from trees and bushes,” and exercising body and mind. He urged listeners to be positive and smile whenever possible, avoid negative people, and avoid overuse of prescription medications.