Alzheimer’s disease confronts us with an ethical challenge: How do we live with dignity and quality of life in the face of progressive disability and, ultimately, death?
Patients’ cognitive and decision-making impairments often make them unable to answer this question, and when professionals who provide services for older adults fail to recognize and accommodate these impairments, patients suffer. Patients and their caregivers need a health care system that fosters caregiving so that each will live with dignity and well-being.
Another way to answer this question is to discover treatments that prevent disabling cognitive impairments, but this strategy will require expanding the Alzheimer’s label to include people who do not have dementia or who are even cognitively normal. Controversies are likely to occur over how best to describe the Alzheimer’s problem, measure the value of early diagnosis and treatment, and live with a brain at risk.