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Video: Recognizing signs of Alzheimer's

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    >>> this morning on " forever young " alzheimer 's disease. millions of americans suffer from this progressive and debilitating condition. it can take an emotional toll on their families and caregivers as well. dr. richard isaacson is from the university of miami school of medicine and the author of "treating alzheimer 's, preventing alzheimer 's, a patient and family guide 2011 ." dale atkins is a psychologist. good morning to you both. yesterday we talked about age-related memory loss that happens to a lot of people around the age of 50. you had a huge response from people.

    >> i think people were heartened to know some of the issues of memory loss related to aging didn't mean they would have alzheimer 's disease which we'll talk about today.

    >> we need to define alzheimer 's.

    >> as opposed to normal age-related memory loss which is slowness of processing which is where you forget a word but it comes back to you. it's on the tip of your tongue. alzheimer 's is a progressive disorder commonly characterized by short-term memory loss , changes in behavior, sleep, orientation and date. it's a much more progressive and insidious disease.

    >> some of the signs would be that you may notice in somebody?

    >> we can have losing the keys, cell phones, forgetting appointments, getting lost while driving. basically not being able to take care of the things you were able to take care of before the onset of the disease.

    >> if somebody you know and love develops alzheimer 's, how do you begin to deal with that?

    >> well, i think how you begin is also not going to necessarily be how you end. how you begin is you are usually shocked and confused. you're getting a lot of information that you may not be able to process because it's a frightening diagnosis for people. what you can do is try to get as many people around you who can help you. support is important. learn as much as you can about alzheimer 's and learn as much as you can about yourself and what you need to do and who's going to help you because if you are the primary caregiver , what do you need in order to do things correctly? i say correctly because every person is different. also, be conscious that this is still a person and this is always a person. the dignity of the person is what is foremost. so the person needs to be safe, secure and you will change yourself as you relate to the person so that you will have to be very present, understand that there will be so many feelings that will overtake you at times. deal with the feelings in the appropriate situation so when you are with the person you are as pleasant, as positive and as focused as you can be.

    >> my dad had alzheimer 's, my sister did. my brother is now in a facility with advanced stage alzheimer 's. we can trace it back. he's only 62. when he was first diagnosed and if people have been recently diagnosed he knew it was going to happen. that was devastating for him. what do you say to those patients?

    >> it's important that as soon as we notice signs of changes, short-term memory loss , whatever the first symptom is, get informed, educated and see a qualified health care professional . the earlier we diagnose, the earlier we can treat. and the better patients do. there is nothing to be ashamed of with alzheimer 's. alzheimer 's disease is one of the most common diseases out there. if you're 85 or older you have a 45% chance of having alzheimer 's disease. so it's common. get out there, get informed. develop a network of caregivers, nurses, psychologists. see a social worker and a qualified health care professional . get diagnosed early.

    >> i think one of the issues, too, dale. we were talking about this on the break. if you have somebody in your life with alzheimer 's, very often people stop visiting that person and feel guilt about it but there is a disconnect because the person no longer knows who they are.

    >> often people don't know who they are, but there are so many ways to reach people. it's not just the familiarity of, oh, hi, meredith. i remember you. there are other ways we reach people. with music, with pets. we reach people with photographs from the history. you never know what's going to trigger that memory. we also reach people by just being with them, having a gentle touch and being able to connect in a way that is a human to human soul . if someone doesn't recognize you, don't give up. number one, they need to have social stimulation. people need to be engaged and the people who care for them need respite care . they need to have someone to support them. but additionally, you can be present and understand that if you're with someone at this moment, don't worry about the future. when they start saying something over and over again say, yes, i understand that's a concern to you and then distract. speak in short sentences. use concrete language. be gentle and keep yourself as quiet and calm as you can. people who have alzheimer 's are very often distracted and are bothered by loud noises and things like this. if you are there and you're calm and present, you can maximize your time together.

    >> all right. dale, thank you very much. dr. isaacson as well, thank you.

    >> thank you.

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