Likely Speeded Up By Racing Accident
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
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
So what does happen from here on out? What can Ard’s
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
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