The Davis family likes to reminisce in photos of their world travels. Carrie Davis is the daughter of Jim and Paula Davis. They call themselves the three musketeers because they’ve traveled to nearly all the continents together. However, their wings were recently clipped after Jim was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
“What are some of your hobbies?" Carrie asked her father.
"Hobbies..." Jim contemplated before Carrie helped refresh his memory with some charades of herself fishing.
"Fly fishing," Jim said. "There we go. Thank goodness I would have forgotten that I was doing that.”
Alzheimer’s is a degenerative disease of the brain that affects memory, awareness, social conversation, and speech. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s.
Carrie and Paula say they’ve noticed some drastic differences in what Jim can remember, but his humor still shines through.
“You heard the gorgeous part, didn't you?" Jim said. "She was talking to me."
They say they need to embrace who he is today, celebrating the fact that he is always very present. Humor is what gets them through difficult times. And even though they’re aware his Alzheimer's will continue to get worse, they’re hopeful Jim can make a difference for future generations.
Jim has been involved in two clinical trials since his diagnosis. Dr. Jack Klapper from Mile High Research Center is his neurologist.
“We've been all-in on the trials because, I mean, in my thought, what is there to lose?" Carrie said.
Carrie and Paula say they want to encourage other families dealing with Alzheimer’s to get involved since it impacts so many people and is a devastating disease that’s often inherited.
“In the five years that we've been doing these trials, we've never missed one appointment," Paula said. "He's committed. I'm committed. I am really committed because you can't take this lightly.”
Significant progress has been made in recent years regarding Alzheimer’s research. A treatment called Aduhelm was approved by the FDA in June of this year. Kristen Clifford is a chief program officer for the Alzheimer’s Association.
“Aduhelm is the newly approved treatment for mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer's and mild Alzheimer's dementia," Cllifford said. "The Alzheimer's Association welcomes the accelerated approval from the FDA at the helm, as this is the first treatment that addresses the underlying biology of the disease and not just the disease symptoms.”
However, the treatment has come with some controversy. It is not covered by insurance. Some families are hesitant to pay for a treatment that they fear will not be effective and some doctors remain skeptical.
“A lot of my fellow neurologists and Alzheimer's doctors are probably not going to use it because they didn't think it was that good,” Dr. Klapper said.
Nonetheless, the Alzheimer’s Association stresses that Aduhelm has FDA approval. The nonprofit encourages patients to have informed conversations with their healthcare professionals.
“The Alzheimer’s Association is dedicated to eliminating barriers to make sure that anyone who could potentially benefit from the treatment does have access to it,” Clifford said.
One thing everyone can agree on is optimism that we are making great progress in the treatment of Alzheimer’s.
“I think we will end up at some point like we are today with AIDS that we might have multiple drugs combined into one injection as a treatment, not just one thing, but maybe two or three different things," Dr. Klapper said.
For now, Paula and Carrie are appreciating every day they have Jim.
“He’s not doing very well, but he's happy," Paula said. "That's the one thing I am so grateful for. You can see that he's happy.”
And they're still getting in laughs whenever they can.
“When we meet someone, I say, 'Hey, just so you know, my dad has Alzheimer's,'" Carrie said. "And he usually says..."
"I do?” Jim said.
Dr. Jack Klapper and the team at Mile High Research Center are involved in several clinical research studies to evaluate the benefits of therapies on patients with Alzheimer’s disease. For more information, please visit https://www.milehighresearchcenter.com/ or call (303) 839-9900.