The Problem of Alzheimer’s: How Science, Culture, and Politics Turned a Rare Disease into a Crisis and What We Can Do About It

Jason Karlawish. St. Martin’s, $27.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-21873-5
Karlawish (Open Wound), a physician and researcher at the Penn Memory Center, traces in this comprehensive study the history of Alzheimer’s from a rare disease to a modern crisis. In four parts, Karlawish first defines Alzheimer’s, which is no small feat, and he shares his own difficulties as a doctor in explaining it to patients and their families. Part two reveals “the tragedy of science and medicine colliding with politics and culture,” beginning with a look at psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer, the “unwitting revolutionary” who discovered the disease in 1907, and tracing the disease’s history up to the close of the 20th century; after the last of Alzheimer’s fellow specialists died in the 1940s, the disease remained only of interest to a rare few neurologists until reentering the public consciousness. Parts three and four offer ways to address the crisis across fields: Karlawish makes a convincing case to view Alzheimer’s as a “humanitarian problem,” and calls on the use of technology that can “track, remind, alarm, help, and connect” patients; urges financial institutions to flag out-of-character transactions that can “sound an alarm”; and suggests nursing homes should look less like hospitals. Karlawish presents tough information and hard questions with emotional tact. This is a real eye-opener. Agent: David McCormick, McCormick Literary. (Feb.)
Reviewed on : 02/25/2021
Release date: 11/03/2020
Genre: Nonfiction
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