Barry Reisberg. M.D. ALZHEIMERS DISEASE: THE STANDARD REFERENCE New York. The Free Press-MacMillan. 475 pp. $45.00
This is an excellent and comprehensive volume on the now widespread distressing Alzheimer's disease which works havoc upon the sufferers and their loved ones. Sometimes called the "Disease of the Century" it is responsible for the institutionalization of more than a million individuals in the US alone. Understandably a still larger number of professionals is required to care for these patients in various hospitals and nursing homes. In addition and most distressing of all is the emotional turmoil created in the patients' families as they face the financial, physical and emotional demands which fall their lot.
The comments above concern the more serious forms of the illness, the milder forms are less obvious but equally disturbing - they often lead to early retirement and social withdrawal as well as mental changes. Often the patient has intellect enough left to insist upon his own way and thus adds to the family's problems.
The disease was extant generations ago and is recognizable in song and story but it was not given a name or recognized as an entity until 1907 when Alzheimer diagnosed a 51 -year-old woman as having pre-senial dementia, however by the 1970s the disease became generally known as "Alzheimer's disease" or "senile dementia of the Alzheimer type." Neurofibrillary tangles are the hallmarks of the disease.
Reisberg points out that there had been a slighting of consideration of the disease even in neurologic and psychiatric textbooks though approximately 5% of the patients over age 65 are affected as are 20% over the age of 80.
Reisberg also expresses the belief that this book presents "possibly the first effort to formulate for a general medical audience a compilation of active research, an investigation over the past 15 years and that the material in it comes from many sources, other texts, reports of scientific meetings," to say nothing of the extensive observational reports in this volume. The immediate and real hope is that the present compilation will enable the clinician to better serve Alzheimer patients and their distressed families.
Among the various outstanding contributors of clinicians and investigators who contribute to this volume, Reisberg's Chapter "Overview of Current Concepts of Alzheimer's Disease, Senile Dementia and Age Associated Cognitive Decline" requires special mention for it is a superb bird's eye view of the various entities under discussion.
Understandably a reviewer would like to comment upon the various authoritative studies - some by world renowned individuals but since there are 58 chapters in the volume, this is impossible for the space available for this review. One can say however without fear or favor that this is an excellent scientific compilation an Ormnium Gatherum which to my mind is the best survey of the situation which has yet appeared.