ROSELAND — Right now in New Jersey, there are 180,000 people living with Alzheimer's disease, and their ordeal impacts countless other family members and caregivers.

The disease still has no cure, and there has not been a new drug to treat it approved by the Food and Drug Administration in well over 10 years, according to Ken Zaentz, president and CEO of Alzheimer's New Jersey.

Zaentz's organization has established a program called Clinical Trial Connections, which endeavors to educate both patients and caregivers about the importance of getting involved in such trials. Zaentz said every pharmaceutical advancement that has been made available to treat Alzheimer's disease has been the result of a clinical trial. But those can often take 10 to 12 years to complete, so committed participation is crucial.

"The reality for the caregiver is that there has been no new medication approved, so that is the unfortunate part," he said. "We are trying to teach caregivers and people with the disease how to live with dignity, how to find hope and joy in the time that they have together."

Not only is there still no cure for Alzheimer's disease, Zaentz said, but there is also still no way to even slow its progression. Conversely, if there was a way to slow it down, it's not going to go away entirely.

So another way that the Clinical Trial Connections program can make things even a little easier is by providing therapeutic benefits, allowing a patient to be more closely monitored, even if taking a placebo. The word "connections" also has obvious meaning, giving everyone involved an increased sense of being linked to others going through the same process.

The biggest risk factor for Alzheimer's disease remains aging itself, though Zaentz said research has been shifting into the area of genetics to determine if there is a causal relationship for "early-onset" diagnoses.

At the moment, the best ways to support potential new developments are participation and donation, which Alzheimer's New Jersey continues to encourage this fall with its annual series of Walks to Fight Alzheimer's: Sunday, Sept. 15 in Morristown, Saturday, Sept. 28 in Point Pleasant, Saturday, Oct. 5 in Jersey City, Sunday, Oct. 13 in Princeton, and Sunday, Oct. 27 in Paramus.

For more information, visit alznj.org.

Patrick Lavery is Senior Producer of Morning News and Special Programming for New Jersey 101.5, and is lead reporter and substitute anchor for "New Jersey's First News." Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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