The gerontologist’s words struck me with the force of a bucket of ice water, “Your wife, Anna, has probable Alzheim­er’s.”

For nearly a year, I feared hear­ing those words, since An­na’s short-term memory had begun to falter. This announcement struck me in a different way. This ex­pert had de­liver­ed a capital sentence on the woman I love. Oh, how often I had bragged that I had married her not just for her looks, but for her brains. She had kept me on time and organized for 50 years.

The ger­­ontologist recom­mend­ed Anna to a clinic in Lon­don. When I asked what further diagnostic tests and treatment they offered, they said, “None. You can diagnose Alzheim­er’s only after death. We’ll put her in a double-blind clinical study to evaluate a new drug.”

“Sorry,” I said, “She doesn’t want to become a guinea pig. We’ll look elsewhere.”

About then a doctor friend put us in touch with Klaus Potthoff, in Sweden, trained in psychiatry, who claims to have had success treating various kinds of dementia. He calls his program, Reversing Organic Dementia (ROD). Together with our doctor friend and the encouragement of our family doctor, they arranged a battery of tests to look for causes of memory loss, other than Alzheimer’s.

Within a few weeks Anna had several scans and tests, including two MRIs. The results showed brain deteriora­tion consistent with age and min­or strokes. A neuro-psychological test indicated she had problems with short-term memory only. All other brain functions appeared average or better. We could not have known that without the costly test, a pro­cedure that OHIP refused to fund.

Dr. Potthoff recommended we get a diagnostic test for Alzheimer’s used in Europe, but unknown in North America. We considered Swe­den until a local doctor agreed to oversee the test in conjunc­tion with a European univer­sity. Before that could happen, a change in Anna’s health caused local doctors to prescribe war­farin, making the Alzheimer’s test impossible. Dr. Potthoff’s program includes the typical medica­tions used for people with dementia, much of which our fam­ily doctor had already started. He recom­mended Anna take war­farin, a blood thinner, a key component of the ROD program.

Canadian doctors didn’t approve using warfarin for that, but prescribed it for an unrelated heart problem. We felt the Great Physician intervened. 

What happens to older people who experience memory loss or show symp­toms indicating Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia? They often don’t get appro­priate diagnosis that might identify treatable conditions. Nobody hears about treatments available beyond North America. The patients frequently deteriorate so that relatives have no option but to send them to terminal warehouses. 

Almost three years after all this started, Anna’s memory has not become noticeably worse. Most evenings will find us watching Wheel of Fortune. Anna sits there spitting out the answers to the word puzzles faster than I can and faster than the participants.

I often ask myself, how can I get her as a contestant on that show?    



Ray Wiseman