TODAY   |  July 16, 2013

New guidelines could help detect early Alzheimer’s

Research to be presented at the Alzheimer’s Association’s international conference in Boston this week could help family doctors recognize and identify the symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer’s. TODAY’s Maria Shriver reports on how early detection has helped one woman struggling with the illness.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> it isn't just a slice of american cultural history , it's a chunk.

>> a pricey chunk of hollywood history now up for the highest bidder.

>> and in case you are wondering, the photos could go for more than $1 million. coming up next, maria shriver on the fight against alzheimer 's. but first, this is "today" on nbc. painful path of allianz timers.

>> this is what retirement was supposed to look like for nancy albertson.

>> is that grand pa?

>> playing with her grand children and spending time with her husband of 39 years. she didn't expect to become the face of early on set alzheimer 's disease.

>> why did you think you might have early alzheimer 's?

>> i taught english as a second language so i wanted to say something or write something and i thought i can't get that word.

>> nancy is experiencing a symptom of early alzheimer 's known as language recall.

>> i think it's something that you don't think of in people under the age of 60 very often.

>> nancy was only 59 when she first revealed her problem to her family doctor during a routine physical.

>> made me think we need to look into this further. this is not normal.

>> dr. golden referred nancy to a neurologist eventually leading her to a diagnosis of early on set alzheimer 's.

>> this is an excellent example of how physicians diagnosis should be done.

>> she is overseeing the presentation of new research this week at the alzheimer 's associations international conference in boston where early detection is a hot topic.

>> do you think it really did cause --

>> researchers will present new guidelines that could help family doctors like nancy recognize and identify the symptoms of early on set alzheimer 's.

>> it's important to know what's happening in the brain when these brain changes are starting and if it is alzheimer 's disease that future planning needs to happen with the planning now.

>> reporter: nancy watched her own mother die from alzheimer 's so she struggled with the decision to tell her four siblings about her own diagnosis.

>> one thing i am fortunate for is that i am able to get more help than mom ever did.

>> reporter: she revealed her diagnosis in a letter telling her siblings they shouldn't worry about her.

>> i feel much closer to god and between god, my husband, and the medicine, i think my life is better now. because life is more precious, you know? that's why.

>> today is friday.

>> reporter: in this video diary nancy gives us a peek at her daily routine and how new medication is helping her retain some of her former life. driving to the local market for groceries, also making breakfast. for now.

>> you don't know what tomorrow is going to hold. one day could change everything.

>> how do you not get angry about that?

>> i was angry for a long time.

>> a local support group gives rick and nancy a safe place to talk about their new roles as caregiver and patient.

>> you're going to do the best that you can and that's why she has such confidence in you.

>> rick also hired a part time caregiver for nancy to relieve him of some of his daily responsibilities. and nancy is doing her part indulging in one of rick's passions by learning to play the wash board at his weekly bluegrass jam.

>> your husband said that he is proud of you.

>> and i am him.

>> you're proud of him too.

>> it's a hard thing to go through as a couple.

>> it's important to stress that one of the toughest decisions nancy made was, in fact, to speak up and admit she was having a problem. by getting an early diagnosis she is giving researchers time to study her and to help not only her with the symptoms but also so many other people he struggling to find a cure in the future.

>> it's an incredibly courageous thing to do. let's bring our own dr. nancy snyderman into this conversation. she looked so young and noticed she was forgetting words. how do you know if it's normal aging or something potentially more serious.

>> when you look at her speak you can tell she is searching for words and that can be a real issue and early warning sign, especially for someone that already mastered language well. problem solving . major lapses during the day of memory. the inability to figure out why you're going to the store, why you have a laundry list sometimes getting lost. all of those issues, when they become destructive to normal mundane tasks we undertake every day, each of those can be an early warning sign.

>> and maria, you mentioned this enabled the researchers to look at the early stage of the disease and allow someone to have more control about their future.

>> as nancy also knows, doctors believe that alzheimer 's is present in your system 20 years before it's actually diagnosed and the earlier that doctors are able to get people into clinical trials , the better they think that they can deal with them and hopefully we can find a cure but we need a lot more money for research and a lot more people volunteering and coming forward.

>> ten seconds nancy , the sad news is we're not close to a cure.

>> there's no great drugs on the market now but the earlier you know, the more you can get into clinical trials and increasingly we'll be looking at genomics for this. get things under way and knowing you're legally and financially okay. we don't have big conversations enough this in this country.

>> dr. nancy snyderman thank you. maria shriver , thank you. nancy