Questions that bother us so

posted Jul 30, 2014, 1:02 PM by Wayne Wieseler   [ updated Jul 30, 2014, 1:02 PM ]

Every week we are asked questions to which we don’t know the answers. This happens in every business out there, and the best answer is “I don’t know, but I’ll see what I can find out and get back to you.”

Referral and information is a big part of the Sebastopol Area Senior Center’s service. Then there are those questions we wish we could answer, wish we could point to the solution, but the solution does not exist yet.

The increase of Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia tops the list. Sure, we will sit with someone and hold their hands, agree on how difficult things are and refer them to the handful of agencies and facilities that specialize in working with Alzheimer’s and dementia patients.

Family and friends want to know why this has happened to their loved one, and what is being done. Some comfort comes from history. Throughout time there have been countless scourges and pandemics that hit us so fast, we did not know how to treat it.


We have read in history book about bubonic plague, yellow fever, smallpox, influenza and countless others that killed millions. The scientists of the day studied where and how they spread and created a separation that eventually slowed the disease down.

Called the worst disease of the postwar era, Paralytic Poliomyelitis is a disease that knew no boundaries. It was everywhere. If you are over 50, you remember Polio and likely knew victims. Dr. Jonas Salk and Dr. Albert Sabin developed the vaccines that prevented polio. I recall how excited my parents were when we all went to a local school to receive the vaccine. In 1988 there were 350,000 cases of polio worldwide. In 2013 there were 407. Through the efforts of Rotary, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Health Organization and countless others, there are just three countries where polio remains.

As cancer came to the forefront, medical researchers turned their efforts towards finding a solution. Today, the remission of many forms of cancer has increased, and while a diagnosis is frightening, there is hope.

When HIV/AIDS appeared in the late 1970s, there was no cure and very little understanding of what it was. Again, medical researchers went to work. This is a very complex disease that is a moving target. Today we have treatments that help patients and researchers continue to develop a road map to a cure.

So when we have this discussion with families who are faced with a loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s, we can’t say there is a cure, but we can say that our medical research community is working every day to have a better understanding of this plague. While there is hope for a cure, it does take time. Some day we will all bid farewell to the long goodbye. I like to think we are all part of the solution.