Self Caring

Would You Peek Into an Alzheimer's Crystal Ball?

Last updated: Sep 22, 2010

Marlo Thomas

One unexpected silver lining to being a caregiver has been a heightened awareness of my own health. I may not always have the time or will to follow through, but more than ever I want to be good to myself. I want to spare my loved ones a similar caregiving journey. I want to lower my risks.

But how much do I want to know about those risks?

Like, do I want to know, with near-100-percent accuracy, whether I'll develop Alzheimer's? This is now possible (mostly in theory; actual practice is still sketchy) through spinal-fluid tests being developed. Such tests go way beyond the handful of known genetic markers that explain a relatively small percentage of Alzheimer's cases.

I loved seeing this very question discussed earlier this week by the celeb women behind the wowOwow site. The gals fell into three camps:

The Candice Bergen Camp: Test, please!

Candice definitely wants to know. But"¦she says she wants to know so she could "do as much as possible to not burden my daughter and friends"¦I'd make whatever legal arrangements I could"¦I would exercise each day, eat smart"¦"

Wait Candice! Those are the things you're supposed to be doing right now to safeguard against all sorts of fates!

The Marlo Thomas Camp: No test, no way!

TV's "That Girl" won't be tested. Her motto: "Never face the facts as presented. They'll kill you faster than any medicine in the drugstore."

For her, ignorance is bliss. (She also says that being childless means she doesn't care to know her genetic risks.)

The Lily Tomlin Camp: Test me, just don't tell me

Lily wants to be tested "“ but she doesn't want to know the results. She says she'd rather live in denial of her potential decline, while giving those around her the benefit of knowing.

An interesting variation on "ignorance is bliss" "“ but wouldn't you know if your loved ones were treating you a little"¦funny? Could they keep the secret?

Me, I'm a Marlo. No news (about whether I'll get Alzheimer's) is good news "“ at least as long as the news has no known cure, so there's nothing much I could do about it that I don't already know to do. Meanwhile I'll give the preventative measures, such as they are, my best shot.

How about you? Are you a Candice, a Marlo, a Lily...

Which camp on Alzheimer's testing do you belong to?(Choose one)

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