Ard’s Ailment Likely Speeded Up By Racing Accident

Busch Series legend Sam Ard was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in May, by Florence, S.C. neurologist Dr. Ashley Kent. According to Dr. Kent, Ard is in the moderate stage of Alzheimer’s – the third of what the physician says are four distinct levels of the disease. He also states that the onset of the disease was likely quickened by severe head injuries that Ard sustained in a career-ending 1984 accident.

“ Mr. Ard is 66 … (and that is) earlier, rather than later, for Alzheimer’s dementia,” says Dr. Kent, who also treated Neil Bonnett after the driver sustained a head injury at Darlington in 1990. “I think that the head trauma certainly made it occur at a younger age for Mr. Ard. It was a contributing factor to his memory loss.

“ We don’t know exactly how, but (a head injury) certainly is one of the risk factors for Alzheimer’s. I don’t know exactly what the mechanism behind it is, but (a patient) probably already has some damage from the head trauma. Then, that probably sets up a degenerative process. But we don’t know how that is.”

There is no way to tell just how quickly Ard’s disease will progress. For now, he is being treated with a variety of medications.

“ Each case is very different, but there is a certain percentage of patients who are responders to the medication,” Dr. Kent says. “I’ve had people respond and stabilize for three, four years. There are people who decline no matter what you do, and then there’s people that have a modest benefit from the medications. … We’ve got medications that do help with the memory loss. We also have other medications that help with behavior, and that help with the energy levels.”

Another essential part of Ard’s treatment is letting him and his family know what to expect.
“ Very important is patient and family education,” Dr. Kent continues. “You have to talk to them and go over the diagnoses that could be possible, and the most likely diagnosis. Instructing them on the disease process is very important. There are some behavioral things that you can do that are also very helpful.
So what does happen from here on out? What can Ard’s family expect?

“ His caretakers, his wife and his children, are going to notice a decline in his behavior,” Dr. Kent says. “He will be a little bit less patient than he was in the past. They’ll have a little bit more trouble getting him to do the daily things that we take for granted, such as bathing and dressing.”

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, the average life expectancy of an Alzheimer’s patient is eight years from the first onset of symptoms. The average total cost to care for a person with Alzheimer’s is $174,000. Most – more than seven out of 10 – patients live at home, with family and friends providing the majority of their care. Past that, “paid care” costs an average of $19,000 a year.
– Rick Houston