November Is National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month

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Los Angeles Jewish Home is marking November's National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month by calling for increased understanding of an illness that is the 11th leading cause of death for adults age 65 and older and expected to grow even more widespread in coming years.

It's estimated that four million Americans have Alzheimer's disease; and unless a cure or significant treatment is found, it's predicted that as many as 14 million will have the disease by 2050. While the cause of Alzheimer's disease is still uncertain, researchers agree that the risk of developing the condition increases as a person ages.

"It's incredibly important while the search for a cure is underway," said Dr. Rick Smith, the Home's medical director, "that we understand how to correctly care for those afflicted with this difficult malady."

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According to Smith, experts have long been aware that environment can play an important role in caring for Alzheimer's patients. Because Alzheimer's disease slowly and inexorably robs its victims of memory as well as both cognitive and motor skills, the warmth and reassurance of "home" is vitally important.

"Because Alzheimer's is an organic process and progresses over time," Smith explained, "early diagnosis can help individuals and their loved ones have as much time as possible to do the best they can with circumstances that are beyond their control."

Smith recommends working with a therapist who can provide information and support for the whole family. Therapy can provide crucial insight into what to next anticipate, how best to cope day by day, and ways to move through the inevitable mix of emotions, including loss, anger, hope, intensified love, frustration, alienation, helplessness, grief, and a "deepened awareness of both the power and the fragility of the human experience."

Alzheimer's signs to look for include:

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