Health Beat

Health Beat: Early Alzheimer's undertreatment

Health Beat: Early Alzheimer's...

LOS ANGELES - A lot of people don't even realize 87-year-old Bob Rosenfield has Alzheimer's disease. He was diagnosed seven years ago. His wife, Susan, makes sure he takes his medicine every day, because they've made a big difference.

"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," Susan confessed.

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

Dr. Gary Small, a geriatric psychiatrist and director at UCLA Longevity Center, said patients often don't continue taking medications in early stages because they or their families don't see improvement.

"Many studies have shown that they help patients stay at a higher level of functioning longer," Small said. "They don't cure the disease, but they do have an impact on people's lives."

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

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

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

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

Both Small and the Rosenfields agree that medication alone isn't enough. It needs to be part of a comprehensive plan that includes eating a healthful diet, exercise, social interaction, and activities that stimulate the brain. Bob goes to a memory care class at UCLA to help keep him sharp.

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