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A Controversial New Alzheimer's Drug, Dating During COVID, Dogs’ Anxiety As We Return To Offices

PET scan of a normal and Alzheimer's disease brain.
Creative Commons
PET scan of a normal and Alzheimer's disease brain.

The battle against Alzheimer’s takes a turn with the announcement of a new drug treatment. We’re still in a pandemic but a lot of people are ready to get back into dating. Plus, helping our dogs deal with anxiety now that many of us are back in the office.

On this Wednesday, June 9, episode of Sundial

FDA Approves Controversial Alzheimer's Drug

Millions of people across the country suffer from Alzheimer’s, a degenerative disease that impacts our elderly population’s basic brain functions.

Florida is home to an estimated 580,000 Alzheimer's patients — and that population is expected to grow by 25% within the next five years.

But it seems there may be hope on the horizon. For the first time in nearly two decades, the Food and Drug Administration has given accelerated approval to a new drug, called Aduhelm, to treat the disease.

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“Alzheimer's disease is a very difficult disease to design a treatment,” said Dr. Jim Galvin, a professor of neurology with the University of Miami and director of the Comprehensive Center for Brain Health in Palm Beach. He was part of an early trial run in South Florida and was an advisor to Biogen, the company that created the drug.

“[It’s] a degenerative disease, it's like chasing a moving train every day. The patient is changing a little bit each day. And so now you're trying to give medicine that's trying to catch up with this train that's running ahead of it. And it's been very, very difficult," Galvin said. "And I think the FDA's decision here to do it under this accelerated approval plan really opened the door for new ways to approach Alzheimer's therapies.”

Some in the medical community are skeptical about whether the drug really works. A panel of advisers recommended that the agency not approve the drug, citing two studies with conflicting evidence on whether the drug actually slows declines in memory and thinking.

A New Controversial Alzheimer's Drug
Dr. William Burke goes over a PET brain scan in 2018 at Banner Alzheimers Institute in Phoenix. The drug company Biogen Inc. has received federal approval for a medicine to treat early Alzheimer's disease.

Dating During A Pandemic

It seems like a lifetime ago, dating meant being physically close. Sharing popcorn at the movies, sitting next to each other over dinner or at a crowded bar.

Meeting new people and looking for love has always been a little daunting. Throw in social distancing, masks, the fear of catching COVID — and it all seems a little less sexy.

“It's not the same. It's like eating ice cream with plastic wrap around it. It's still better than nothing. I mean, you can be alone and not talk to anybody but at the very least, you can do it in a safe way and you Zoom, if that's what's available to you," said Dan Silverman, who is a dating coach and is also known as the Miami Matchmaker. "I'm not a big fan of online dating, but I still highly recommended it to all of my clients [during the pandemic].”

Some people have managed to find love even with all of these pandemic restrictions. Emily Bender met her fiance, Tyler Caudell, in Key West at a socially distanced cocktail party. They both left their jobs in other states and were there staying with family because of the pandemic.

Courtesy of Emily Bender
Emily Bender, left, met her fiance, Tyler Caudell, right, in Key West at a socially distanced cocktail party during the pandemic. They have since bought a house in Key West and are planning to get married in March 2022.

“I hated when people would tell me ‘When you know, you know’ or ‘It will happen when you least expect it.’ But that's exactly what happened on both fronts for me. And I hope that it brings some faith to others out there still looking for it,” Bender said.

Sundial was also joined by Tammy Shaklee, who has her own matchmaking service called H4M. She works with clients from all over the country and specializes in queer relationships.

Dating During A Pandemic
Information typed into online dating questionnaires may not be as private as you think.

Dogs’ Anxiety Once We Go Back To The Office

Many offices that have been closed since the beginning of the pandemic are slowly bringing workers back.

It’ll be a tough adjustment for those of us who have become used to working from home. It’ll also be a major adjustment for our pets — who have gotten used to having us around all the time.

Some dogs might start showing signs of separation anxiety, which can include destructive behavior, not eating, going to the bathroom in the wrong places and excessive barking.

“A tired dog is a happy dog. And I think that's the most important thing anyone can do for a dog that has separation anxiety issues or anxiety issues in general," said Mark Rowlands, a professor and chair of the philosophy department at the University of Miami — much of his research has focused on animals like dogs and wolves.

Among other things, he recommends long walks and exercise to tire the dog out so they sleep while you're gone.

Dogs’ Anxiety Once We Go Back To The Office
Brown dog in front of a laptop "working from home."

Leslie Ovalle produces WLRN's daily magazine program, Sundial. She previously produced Morning Edition newscasts at WLRN and anchored the midday news. As a multimedia producer, she also works on visual and digital storytelling.