• Expert Q&A: Rare dementias - Tues 3 March, 3-4pm

    Our next expert Q&A will be on the topic of rare dementias. It will be hosted by Nikki and Seb from Rare Dementia Support. If you have any questions about rare dementias, they will be here to answer them on Tuesday 3 March between 3-4pm.

    You can either post your question >here< or email them to us at talkingpoint@alzheimers.org.uk and we'll be happy to ask them on your behalf.

When was AD "discovered"?

MandJB1999

Registered User
Aug 24, 2006
6
I've tried to find when Alzheimer's was discovered as a disease and I've been unable to come up with that info. Does anyone happen to know?

I've been researching my own family history for about 10 years. I've come across two ancestors that might have had it. I have a gr-gr-grandfather that died of "Senile Dementia" in a mental hospital in 1915. (He had spent 3 years in the hospital. Oral tradition places his death in 1911 leading me to believe that the family prefered to claim he died then admit he was hospitalized. I have no living family that remembers him and very little info was passed down.) I also had a gr-gr-grandmother who died in a 1950 and "Dementia" was listed as a contributing factor in her death. While my grandmother remembers her well she doesn't speak often about any of the time after "her mind went". I do know that she took to hiding money towards the end of her life. After "her mind went" she would scratch her face off of any photo of herself, so now there are few remaining photos of her. She became difficult to care for (I'm not sure how difficult but I think that before she became too much for her husband to care for himself he did have to start tying her in bed at night to keep her from wandering off.)
I have wondered if it is possible that one or both could have had Alzeimer's but that the disease might have been unknown then.
 

MandJB1999

Registered User
Aug 24, 2006
6
Sorry I think I found my own answer. It was discovered in 1906 but usually only applied to people 45-65 before the 1970s. I guess "Senile Dementia" was what it was called in those over 65 since it was considered a fairly normal part of aging.

Since my gr-gr-grandfather was 80 when he died then he most likely did have AD. His cause of death was listed as Senile Dementia.

I'm still unsure about my gr-gr-grandmother though. Does the little I know about her life after "her mind went" sound like possible Alzheimer's?
 

Brucie

Registered User
Jan 31, 2004
12,413
near London
Yes, my understanding is that when originally specified, Alzheimer's was identified to be what we now call Early Onset Dementia, and not something suffered by older people at all. Some history at http://hod.kcms.msu.edu/timeline.php?y=1864

and

http://www.alzheimers-oregon.org/history.html

and

http://www.emental-health.com/alzh_history.htm

more info on the change of view in the 1970s: http://www.westernalzheimer.ie/history.htm

Wow there's lots of history stuff out there: http://genome.wellcome.ac.uk/doc_wtd020951.html
 

Helena

Registered User
May 24, 2006
715
You have to remember that many many people who suffered an Underactive Thyroid in those days would have suffered Mxodeama madness but since there was no recognition or treatment of the condition they were placed in mental institutions too and dementia could have been put on their death certificates .......i think that is likely to explain the younger deaths

Other medical conditions can also give rise to dementia so when a dementia death is recorded in 40 and 50 yr old my suspicion would be other than AD
 

jenniferpa

Registered User
Jun 27, 2006
39,448
MandJB1999 said:
Since my gr-gr-grandfather was 80 when he died then he most likely did have AD. His cause of death was listed as Senile Dementia.

I'm still unsure about my gr-gr-grandmother though. Does the little I know about her life after "her mind went" sound like possible Alzheimer's?
It's as likely to have been vascular dementia. Unrecognised and untreated high blood pressure was far more common then than it is now. While a number of those people would have had massive life-ending strokes, a fair number would also have suffered from the mini-stroke syndrome (what my GM would have called a "funny turn"). When you realise that Vascular Dementia is second to alhzeimers as a dementia cause, even now with effect HP treatments available, you have to feel that 50 years or earlier ago, vascular was possible pmore prevalent then it is currently.

Jennifer
 

Nell

Registered User
Aug 9, 2005
1,170
68
Australia
MandJB1999 said:
(He had spent 3 years in the hospital. Oral tradition places his death in 1911 leading me to believe that the family prefered to claim he died then admit he was hospitalized. QUOTE]


This seems to have been quite common for the time. In my husband's family, one great grandfather was said to have "become homesick and returned to England" (leaving a wife and 4 very young children in Australia!). Nearly a century later, my husband discovered through his family history searches that this great grandfather had spent the last thirty years of his life in a "mental asylum" as they were then called. It seems it was better that he be thought a callous wretch who abandoned his young family than admit to the stigma of mental illness. Sad days indeed.
Nell
 

MandJB1999

Registered User
Aug 24, 2006
6
I was very surprised to find out that my gr-gr-grandfather died in 1915. The family (those that are alive now, which none were around when he left) had been lead to believe that he'd died in 1911. My gr-grandmother had told everyone that he died when she was 11 (which was 1911) and she was sent to live with a neighboring family then. Even his tombstone gives his date of death as 1911!

I guess its difficult to find out if there is a history of AD in families. If it wasn't really acknowledged in people over 65 until the 1970's...

I'm not sure what to think of my gr-gr-grandfather's condition. The hospital he was in closed long ago. I wouldn't have the foggiest how to find his records... if any were even left. His death certificate just gave his name, age, date of death and Senile Dementia as the cause. A secretery at the mental hospital was the informant... I guess that the family couldn't (or didn't want) to be reached.

I know from the info I can get on my gr-gr-grandma that "Dementia" contributed to her death. Her exact cause was a hip fracture. Tradition goes that she was sent to the hospital because of her mind and while there she tried to get out of bed in the middle of the night but fell. She severely broke her hip from the fall and days later she died. They lived in an extremely rural area so I have no idea what kind of medical care she had prior to being sent to the hospital.

Why must dementia in the family history be looked at as some deep dark family secret? Those that know anything about the ancestors that had the dementia would rather pretend that it never happened. Instead the most that will be said is that they were "odd" or "a little off" or something along those lines. You can't get down to the truth!
Then a family member is diagnosed with AD or even suspected of having it and the whole family is shocked! Everyone talks about how no one in the family has ever had AD, yet they for get abt gr-granma or granddad who everyone admits was as nice as could be but became a bit "eccentric" the last few years of their life.
 

Tender Face

Account Closed
Mar 14, 2006
5,379
NW England
100 years on and no further forward????

Hi, Mand! Amazing what family research throws up about allsorts, isn't it?

I've researched my family for various reasons over the years... and have to remind myself often that genes lead only to 'predispositions' .... How times have changed in regards to mental illness, thank goodness..... but not changed enough - yet!!!!

Words like 'asylum' and 'senility' have come to have vastly different meanings over the last century, haven't they?

I am 'wowed' that Alz could have been 'discovered' so many generations ago - but where are we on cause / prevention / treatment????

Best wishes, Karen (TF), x
 

MandJB1999

Registered User
Aug 24, 2006
6
I agree that just because its in your family history doesn't mean you will get AD. LOL, I come from a bunch of tall people and I'm short! I still think that its good to know if it is in the history so you can let your doctor know. Its like certain types of cancer or diabetes... if you know that you have a slightly higher chance of getting it then you and your doctor can watch for it.

It has been 100 years since AD has been "discovered". It is a little mind boggling that so little is still not known abt AD. You'd think that they could turn that into something to boost support of AD research... although maybe they look at it that it would have a very negitive response if people realized that its "been around" for 100 years and its still unclear why AD happens or what to do about it.
 

Helena

Registered User
May 24, 2006
715
I am not sure that AD was only recognised in the over 65s till the 70s

I can remember my Aunt wandering long before that and being placed in a home and being told she had senile dementia

Equally if we go way back any family member that was "odd" and this sadly included Thyroid patients , girls who got pregnant out of wedlock , etc etc were either locked away behind closed doors or placed in a mental institution
 

Margarita

Registered User
Feb 17, 2006
10,824
london
MandJB1999

although maybe they look at it that it would have a very negitive response if people realized that its "been around" for 100 years and its still unclear why AD happens or what to do about it.
They do know what it happen Plagues abnormal clusters of protein fragnemets ,build up between neve cells Dead and dying nerve cells contain tangles which are made up of twisted starnds of another protin...... its just that they do not know How it happen

Just like Cancer which must have been around that long also

Good site that take you in to the human brain then someone with AD http://www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers/Publications/UnravelingTheMystery/Part1/InsideBrain.htm

If you just want to jump in to and just read what is happening with the brain of someone with AD http://www.nia.nih.gov/Alzheimers/Publications/UnravelingTheMystery/Part1/Hallmarks.htm
 
Last edited:

Lila13

Registered User
Feb 24, 2006
1,342
Cousin P died in an asylum in the early thirties and Auntie M in a nursing-home in 1952, there were others further back with dementia and/or mental illnesses not clearly defined, hushed up.

I'm sure there were neighbours whose relatives had various forms of dementia which wasn't diagnosed. When they became unmanageable they were put away somewhere and probably died of neglect and chest infections.