December 21, 2015

Scamming Alzheimer’s

Swindlers, scammers, and quacks fill the Internet. During times of desperation cons are quick to manipulate the vulnerable with fraudulent promises. Normally one dismisses them by thinking buyer beware and hoping that the gullible will not succumb to the hokum being plied to seduce the unwary.

The worst of the worst are the vermin that prey on families whose loved ones suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s and the many varied forms of dementia are today claiming more people than at any time in the history of the disease. Studies show that the disease increased 68% over ten years when, according to the U.S. Census, the elder population only increased by 15.1%. Families are desperate for a cure. Victims are desperate for relief. Increasing in alarming numbers across the Internet are societal vultures aiming at the hearts of the vulnerable. They are predatory parasites out to pick the pockets of desperate people while blinding them with false promises that they have a cure for the deadly disease.

Having spent several years embedded in both hospitals and nursing homes, and coming face-to-face on a daily basis with patients stricken with the long-term but always fatal disease, it is with certainty that it can be stated that there is no cure.

Dementia has become so prevalent that everybody knows somebody who knows somebody who has it. The numbers are so great that an ill-prepared health system is not equipped to render the proper “care” that is needed for the overwhelming numbers of dementia patients that are streaming through its doors. From nurses’ aides to whistleblowers, staff complain that they are not being trained to deal with the ever increasing number of people that are incapacitated with brain diseases.

To understand the severity of the cruelty of the swindlers, it is important to understand the heartache and real-time bereavement of families confronted with most forms of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

In my latest book, “AGING: WARNING — Navigating Life’s Medical, Mental & Financial Minefields,” few have captured the devastation more succinctly than a well-knit crew of Hollywood creatives. The group is raising both money and awareness about this disease that decimates both mind and body. In as straightforward a way as they can put it, the team at Hilarity for Charity posts this warning on their fundraising website:

“There’s a thief out there. And it’s robbing people’s memories. It’s robbing their ability to talk. It’s robbing their ability to eat, walk, get dressed, shower, or recognize their loved ones. It’s robbing people of their ability to be humans. It’s called Alzheimer's…”

Dr. Neal Barnard, president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, talks openly that debilitating memory loss plagues his family.  Though advocating a healthy diet and striving for a cure, he does not claim one. Dr. Barnard states: “There is nothing more [important] than the connections with your loved ones. If your heart is beating, but your brain cells have been destroyed and you lose your connection with your children, grandchildren, and everyone else around you, you have lost everything and they have lost you. My hope is that we can change that and it starts with information…”

People across the nation who are both emotionally and financially devastated scour the Internet for a ray of light that there is a way out of the darkness that is Alzheimer’s. That is why families must be warned about the shocking number of advertisements that herald that Betty or Bob have gotten their memory back from a simple pill that cures Alzheimer’s. That all people need to do is just buy and apply a special hand cream that makes those stricken with dementia mentally resilient again.

Few things are more galling than charlatans preying on families by scamming them with a false hope that they have a cure for Alzheimer’s. No cure exists. Serious research is underway searching for a cure. As yet, there is none.

As detailed in my book, what patients and their families need to know is that “sticky proteins, now scientifically linked to the consumption of processed foods, become clumped together and irretrievably shred nerve cell endings and eventually disintegrate brain cells. There is no recovery. When brain cells are attacked, the brain eventually clogs, shrinks and dies. The destruction of brain cells is permanent. The damage is not reversible. There is no restorative cure.”

Truth can be harsh. False hope is far harsher. Avoid the “miracle cure” scams posted on what appear to be legitimate and often respected websites. Do not let your heart succumb to the ploys of Internet con artists who prey on your deepest hopes and prayers. Keep your money in your pocket for those rainy days or expenditures to secure comforting care. Consider diverting your dollars to research with organizations such as the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund which reports that 100% of all donations go towards research for a real, but as yet illusive cure.

Top research scientist Dr. Rudolph Tanzi, professor of Neurology at Harvard University, heads up Genetics and Aging Research at Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Tanzi warns that you should not assume you’re immune just because you have no family history of Alzheimer’s. When asked if a cure for Alzheimer’s exists as 2016 begins, his answer is, “Absolutely not — unfortunately.” Trust that the world will know if and when there is a cure for Alzheimer’s and dementia. Meantime, protect your wallet and emotions. Ignore the scammers and the quacks. False hope is no hope at all.

Sharon Sebastian, author of the book, “AGING: WARNING — Navigating Life’s Medical, Mental & Financial Minefields,” is a columnist, commentator, and contributor in print and on nationwide broadcasts on topics ranging from healthcare, culture, religion, and politics to domestic and global policy. Sebastian’s political and cultural analyses are published nationally and internationally. Website:

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