Should Seniors Participate in Clinical Trials for Alzheimer’s and Other Diseases?

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Seniors with Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Parkinson’s, and even some forms of cancer may have opportunities to participate in clinical trials. Some of these trials test new ways to diagnose and prevent diseases, while a vast number focus on new drugs and other treatments for these life-threatening diseases.

A clinical trial may sound scary. After all, you are testing a new drug that has never been used on human beings before. But clinical trials are necessary to establish the safety and efficacy of every drug that has come on the market. Every medication you take today went through clinical research at some point, used by a group of brave volunteers who saw positive changes in their condition after taking the drug.

What Happens During a Clinical Trial?
If you are considering a clinical trial, it makes sense to want to understand the process first. In most cases, depending on the trial, your care will take place in a hospital or other facility where the research team, including doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals will carefully monitor your health.

If the trial takes place on an outpatient basis, you can expect many doctor’s visits and perhaps more medical tests than you may be accustomed to. But you will know that you are being closely monitored and getting the best care for your disease.
In some cases, the research team will follow up with you even after the clinical trial has ended to monitor your progress and look for any long-term side effects.

Things to Consider Before You Agree to a Clinical Trial
Drugs and other treatments have gone through many levels of testing before they are approved for testing on human beings, which means side effects are likely to be mild and the treatment will probably be safe. However, testing the safety of the treatment is one of the main reasons for a clinical trial. There could be dangerous side effects, or the treatment may not work, resulting in disappointment. Your condition may even get worse as a result of the treatment.

Benefits to Participating in a Clinical Trial
Even with these potential drawbacks, there are many benefits to participating in a clinical trial. You will get a level of medical care and monitoring that you may not get with your usual team of doctors from your home or even within a top nursing home or assisted living facility. Of course, there is a chance that this new experimental treatment may actually cure your condition, alleviate symptoms or delay the progression of the disease. You would be one of the first people in the country to benefit from the treatment.

Many people experience feeling powerless after being diagnosed with an incurable illness. Participating in a clinical trial is one way to play an active role in your treatment and take control of your condition. It can also be empowering to know you are helping others through the risks you are taking.

Should You Take the Chance?
Ultimately, participating in a clinical trial is a personal decision that depends on your mindset and your health. You should talk with your doctor before determining if participation is the right choice for you.

Diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and cancer affect a large percentage of the population, primarily seniors. If you have the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial and feel a desire to help others, volunteering could be the right decision.

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