Importance of early Alzheimer's detection

Alzheimer's experts say half the people who have the disease don't even know it. Doctor Gary Small says one reason early stages of the disease aren't being treated is because people are scared of the diagnosis and won't get tested.

He says that's a huge problem. Many people don't even realize 87-year-old Bob Rosenfield has Alzheimer's. He was diagnosed seven years ago.

His wife, Susan, makes sure he takes his meds every day because they've made a big difference. She says, "I don't think bob would be able to make his breakfast or lunch or help with dinner or work at the computer or go to a movie and talk about it."

Bob says, "I can't race like I used to, but I can do a lot!"

Alzheimer's expert doctor Gary Small says patients often don't continue taking medications in early stages because they or their families don't see improvement.

He's a geriatric psychiatrist and director of the UCLA Longevity Center and he says, "Many studies have shown that they help patients stay at a higher level of functioning longer. They don't cure the disease, but they do have an impact on people's lives."

He says people also avoid getting memory loss checked out for fear of an Alzheimer's diagnosis. And, that delays them from taking drugs to slow the symptoms down.

Dr. Small says, "It's going to be easier to protect a healthy brain rather than trying to repair damage once it becomes extensive."

Susan says she sees others who didn't take medication in nursing homes, unable to remember their children's names. So, she's adamant that bob take his meds and live a healthy, active lifestyle.

Susan adds, "I think if you don't take it, you pay a penalty. You're giving away quality of life."

Both doctor Small and the Rosenfields agree that medication alone isn't enough.

It needs to be part of a comprehensive plan that includes eating a healthy diet, exercise, social interaction, and activities that stimulate the brain.

Bob goes to a memory care class to help keep him sharp.


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