Scientists still have no magic shield against Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Yet there is evidence that some strategies may help.

Donna Kaye Hill realized that her 80-year-old mother was faltering cognitively when her phone suddenly stopped working. When Ms. Hill called the phone company, “they told me she hadn’t paid her bill in three months.”

Finding other alarming evidence of memory gaps, she took her mother, Katie, to a memory clinic. A geriatrician there diagnosed dementia and recommended two prescription drugs and a dietary supplement, a form of vitamin E.

Katie Hill dutifully took vitamin E capsules, along with a host of other medications, until she died four years later. As she declined, her daughter didn’t think the vitamin, or the two prescription medications, was making much difference.

“But if it doesn’t hurt, if there’s a chance it helps even a tiny bit, why not?” she reasoned. Ms. Hill, 62, a retired public employee in Danville, Va., takes fish oil capsules daily herself, hoping they’ll help ward off the disease that killed her mother.”

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