Health & Wellness

B. Smith: 'I'm feeling great' despite living with Alzheimer's

Iconic model, author, restauranteur and former TV host, B. Smith, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease four years ago, is hoping that she and her husband, Dan Gasby, can shine a spotlight on the daily challenges faced by caregivers.

On World Alzheimer’s Day, the couple talked with Al Roker and Natalie Morales about how the disease has changed their lives and about the importance of education and recognition for the efforts of caregivers who devote untold hours caring for loved ones.

Though the disease has certainly taken its toll, Smith says she’s “doing great.”

Smith says she still likes to cook. “And I’m making sure that we’re eating well. We’re taking care of ourselves and things like that. So I’m very happy.”

What’s helped Smith the most is being surrounded by loved ones.

“For me it’s all about family,” she says. “I like to be a part of the family and to have us all together. That’s a good thing.”

Gasby attributes much to his wife’s outlook on life.

“She’s a very positive person and we’ve learned to adapt to things that are changing,” he says. “But that doesn’t dampen her spirts.”

As a couple on the frontlines dealing with Alzheimer’s, Smith and Gasby understand all too well how tough it can be. To bring attention to all the other families touched by the disease, they’ve partnered up with the Caregiver Action Network (caregiveraction.org to ask Americans to join in the Twitter #TakeOneMoment campaign, by sharing photos of loved one with Alzheimer's for awareness day.

And, it turns out, there are some pretty big numbers.

“In fact,” Roker says, “there are 15 million Americans caring for someone with Alzheimer’s disease.”

Those caregivers provided an estimated 17.9 billion hours of unpaid care in 2014, valued at $217.7 billion to patients with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. And those numbers are expected only to rise as Baby Boomers age.

“Family is very important,” Gasby says. “And that’s one of the reasons we’re here today. We’re very happy to be partnering with the Caregiver Action Network to celebrate Take One Moment to recognize the people who are out there on the frontlines, the caregivers, and to bring awareness to Alzheimer’s disease and the caregivers in particular. We want them to know that they matter.”

To help with that, Gasby asked that people share a memory or picture of someone they know or knew with Alzheimer’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest using #Take1Moment.

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“By doing so, we’re going to have the Caregiver Action Network give 1,000 thank you meals to people out there who have been on the front lines, the caregivers,” Gasby says.

By talking about their lives since the Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Gasby and Smith hope to educate Americans about living with the disease.

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“The thing we’ve learned is there’s a journey,” Gasby says. “And you have to be able to adapt.

“It’s the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do. It’s easy to be a boyfriend or a husband or a relative. But to be a caregiver and to watch a person go through and challenge and to help them and to learn the greatest language of all, patience, that’s the toughest thing.”

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