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Letter: Early detection is key for Alzheimer’s

Gene Wilder, seen on April 9, 2008, who

Gene Wilder, seen on April 9, 2008, who starred in such film classics as "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" and "Young Frankenstein" died Sunday, Aug. 28, 2016 of complications from Alzheimer's disease. He was 83. Newsday's obituary for Gene Wilder
Photo Credit: AP / Jessica Hill

At the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, we were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of actor Gene Wilder, and that his death was due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease [“A gene for comedy,” News, Aug. 30].

I admire his decision to keep his illness private. At the same time, losing such a high-profile person to this devastating illness provides the opportunity to shine a light on the benefits of early detection.

Often, people don’t learn that they have Alzheimer’s until very late in the disease’s progression. For those 65 and older, the annual Medicare wellness visit includes a cognitive screening. There are many benefits to early detection of memory issues. Not all memory problems are attributable to Alzheimer’s. There are several possible reasons, including vitamin deficiencies, thyroid disorders and depression. Some are treatable and curable.

If people are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease when their cognitive abilities are still intact, they might benefit from medications to slow the progression of symptoms or they might participate in a clinical trial.

Early detection can also afford an opportunity to participate in legal and financial planning conversations, and to express end-of-life wishes.

AFA offers confidential memory screenings at sites on Long Island and across the country. A series of questions and tasks gauges thinking, language skills and memory.

To learn more, visit nationalmemoryscreening.org or call 866-232-8484.

Charles J. Fuschillo Jr., Manhattan

Editor’s note: The writer is president and chief executive of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

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