Jun 25, 2008

Early Alzheimer's patients speak up for others

"It's labeled incurable and you end up being a vegetable. People think as soon as you're labeled that way, you are. A lot of us aren't," says Hayen, 74, a retired San Diego physician who joined about 30 other early-stage Alzheimer's patients last month for a lobbying blitz at the nation's capital.

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Don Hayen has a handy way of deflecting the instant pity that comes when he reveals his Alzheimer's disease: "But I haven't lost my keys all day," he quickly jokes.

Hayen is part of a growing new movement in Alzheimer's: Patients diagnosed early enough to still be articulate and demand better care and better research. They are giving a voice to a disease whose victims until now have remained largely silent, and powerless.

It is a shift with big ramifications.

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