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PBS Alzheimer’s documentary features School of Medicine

Program focuses on the difficulties, expense of caring for people with the disease

by Tamara BhandariJanuary 27, 2017

PBS/TPT National Productions

A PBS documentary about Alzheimer’s disease, which first aired Wednesday, Jan. 25, features a Washington University School of Medicine faculty member as well as participants in a clinical trial led by the School of Medicine.

The program, titled “Alzheimer’s: Every Minute Counts,” explores the impact of the growing Alzheimer’s epidemic. The neurodegenerative disease slowly erases people’s memories and leaves them confused and unable to care for themselves. The disease is common, affecting about one in nine people over age 65, and expensive; an assisted-living facility costs upwards of $40,000 a year. The burden on families and the health-care system is expected to increase as baby boomers reach their golden years.

The program follows Daisy Duarte and her mother, Sonia Cardona, who participate in a study led by the School of Medicine to evaluate whether drug treatments can prevent or delay Alzheimer’s in people with a genetic predisposition to develop the disease at a young age. Duarte and Cardona come to the School of Medicine from their home in Springfield, Mo., to be evaluated by their doctor, Beau M. Ances, MD, PhD.

Participants in the study, known as the Dominantly Inherited Alzheimer’s Network-Trials Unit, are in families that carry one of several genetic mutations that lead to early-onset Alzheimer’s. Cardona, now 60, stopped recognizing her daughter years ago and is beginning to forget how to feed herself. Duarte, who inherited the genetic mutation from her mother, can expect to develop Alzheimer’s symptoms by age 60 herself.

Ances, a professor of neurology who also treats patients at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, speaks about the impact of the disease on his patients and their caregivers. Duarte, who is the primary caregiver for her mother, “sees herself in the mirror” as her mother’s health declines.

Alzheimer’s: Every Minute Counts,” produced by TPT National Productions, will be available online at pbs.org.

Tamara covers pathology, immunology, medical microbiology, cell biology, neurology, and radiology. She holds a bachelor's degree in molecular biophysics and biochemistry and in sociology from Yale University, a master's in public health/infectious diseases from the University of California, Berkeley, and a PhD in infectious disease immunology from the University of California, San Diego. Tamara worked in laboratories for about a decade before switching to science journalism. She joined Medical Public Affairs in 2016.