Aggression, anger, and outbursts at family members and caregivers are common products of Alzheimer’s disease. Two researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center are in Chicago this week presenting their research on how to help patients and caregivers through some of those most difficult symptoms of the disease.
Carol Podgorski, director of URMC’s memory care program, and Anton Porsteinsson, who directs the university’s Alzheimer's Disease Care, Research and Education Program, said the tone of this year’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference is much more positive than in some past years.
“The energy is definitely different. The number of young scientists is incredible, and the enthusiasm generated is incredible,” Podgorski said.
Podgorski is presenting her recent research on family conflict caused by Alzheimer’s for the first time at the conference. She’s found that focusing on what people with Alzheimer’s can still do, rather than what their limitations are, is an effective way of reducing family conflicts.
To her, it’s an obvious approach. But she said it’s not always clear to others.
“While I was presenting yesterday, there were a number of people who said that this really makes sense, and they hadn’t really thought about it before,” Podgorski said. “The sense I got is, people thought this approach was very different to what they would usually experience.”
The response to Podgorski’s work is indicative of a rapidly developing area of research, Porsteinsson said. “With each study, we learn something. This is a very, very different field than it was, 20 years ago. It’s a different field than it was 10 years ago.”
Porsteinsson and Podgorski went to the conference with five other colleagues from URMC. Porsteinsson said Western New York has an outsize presence in Alzheimer’s research.
“Rochester’s a relatively small metropolitan area, but there’s an incredible spirit in this region in terms of willingness to participate in research, which makes Rochester larger on the map than its size would indicate,” Porsteinsson said.
With Rochester’s population growing older, and the number of Alzheimer’s cases expected to continue to rise nationally in the coming years, the researchers said it’s essential to come back home with as much new information as they can gather.