Part 1, Alzheimer’s Awareness: The symptoms

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This is part one of a four-part series. Tune in to the KHON2 News at 7 on KHII Monday-Thursday of this week for more.

November is Alzheimer’s awareness month. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, nearly 6 million Americans are living with the disease. By 2050, that number is expected to more than double.

Amy Truong is familiar with the disease. Her mom was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. The family started seeing the signs when she was just 49-years-old.

“Slowly we started seeing more decline of her cognitive ability like being able to drive, recall the day of the week,” Truong said.

Dr. Jessica Barry is a geriatrician at The Queen’s Medical Center. She said Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. It usually affects people age 70 and older, but the signs can show up earlier for some.

“For Alzheimer’s, it usually starts from short-term memory problems, so it really is day of the week, the month, even the year. It’s not just where I parked my car, but it’s what color is my car, and did I even drive here today?” Barry said about some of the symptoms you may see in someone developing Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.

Dr. Barry encourages anyone who is showing the signs to get checked, so families can understand how to live with the progressive disease.

“Most dementia’s, including Alzheimer’s, will get worse as time goes on, even with medication,” Dr. Barry said, explaining that there is no cure.

While there may not be a cure, Dr. Barry said keeping those with the disease active can help slow down the memory loss.

“Anything I tell people that isn’t excessive TV watching and excessive daytime napping is good for your brain,” Dr. Barry said. “Anything that’s a little bit challenging, and a little bit different is very good for your brain,” she added about how to help those with memory loss.

Dr. Barry said it’s important to not correct someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia if they repeat themselves.

“A person doesn’t need to be told that they’re incorrect, and a person doesn’t need to be corrected because they’re not healthier for that and they’re usually not happier for it either,” Dr. Barry explained.

Truong said it has been difficult to watch her mom decline, but getting diagnosed made all the difference to help her family provide proper care.

“There was a lot of denial about what was happening. We didn’t even understand what was happening until we got some help,” Truong said.

Ha Kupuna, the National Resource Center for Native Hawaiian Elders, recently released a book to help young kids understand Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia.

The book is free and can be downloaded here.

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