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The Daily Nightly began on May 31, 2005. As Brian wrote in his first post it aims to provide a narrative of the broadcast day and a window into the editorial process at NBC Nightly News. Brian weighs in every weekday and NBC News correspondents and producers post regularly.

Brian Williams became the seventh anchor and managing editor in the history of NBC Nightly News on December 2, 2004. Read his full biography.

Living with Alzheimer's disease

Tonight we tell a small part of the enormous tragedy that is Alzheimer’s disease by interviewing Jim Ruppert and his wife Vicky, who live in Rochester, New York. They are amazingly warm, friendly and generous people. It was an honor for me and my colleagues to be invited into their home.

According to a Gallup poll commissioned by the Alzheimer’s Association, 1 in 10 Americans said that they had a family member with Alzheimer’s and 1 in 3 knew someone with the disease. But for even greater numbers to understand this disease, the cooperation of courageous people like Jim and Vicky in sharing their story is invaluable. We decided to do the reports that aired last night and tonight both as part of our ongoing effort to shed light on this huge public health problem and specifically because it is becoming apparent that more and more Americans are learning they have Alzheimer’s disease at a stage where they can discuss it. 

You can watch longer portions of the interview with Jim and Vicky Ruppert here.  Several viewers have written to ask why we did not mention the drugs that are approved to treat Alzheimer’s with the trade names Aricpcept, Razadyne, Excelon and Cognex. For some people, these drugs can bring an improvement in memory and awareness for a period of months. But they are certainly not cures and they do not stop the inevitable progression of the disease. Newer drugs are in the early stages of testing that could have more lasting effects. But those results are still years away.

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COMMENTS

Great video. I've posted a link to it for our readers at Alzheimer's Notes blog. Videos like this should be shared, so that people everywhere can get a fuller understanding of the effects of Alzheimers on the patient and the family.

I applaud anything about Alzheimer's getting out to the public. My husband died of early onset Alzheimer's at the age of 55. There is such a huge social stigma attached to this disease and more needs to be said and done. I wrote a book about my experience as a caregiver and speak frequently to get the word, Alzheimer's, out to as many people as will hear and then say the word. THANK YOU! It truly is a tragic disease that robs not only the person afflicted but the entire family. It is like you bury that person a little eacy day but I am so grateful for the time we had together.

My mother Irene W. Prasch is 87 years old and has been on Arceipt (10mg)for the last 3 years and now is on Namenda (5mg) daily it appears they are halting my mother Alzheimer's. My mother is the first one in her family and in the Prasch family to develop Alzheimer. Prior to taking Namenda her mind was shutting down now she can hold a conversation and has a very good appetite. In reading each of the above comments there is one thing as Caregivers we all must not forget and that is to take care of ourselves both physically and socially. The Alzheimer process can be a long drawn out affair with our love one and if we become physically or mental sick through depression, etc. what will happen to them. The answer is a nursing home.

So much of "life" is in the details....we were very interested to see how Jim and Vicky would be portrayed in Robert Bazell's interview. Our only wish was that he not be a "victim" because he is anything but! Our family has a long history of Alzheimer's disease....and from the onset of his initial problems and eventual diagnosis Jim has been proactive and determined to make a difference. As his disease progresses he has continued, with Vicky's support, to
amaze those who are honored to know him and love him...his family.

My dad was diagnosed at 69, he had symptoms for about 10 years prior to that. He retired early on disability, sat and watched TV during the day, and drank regularly with his friends and wife 4-5 times a week. I know being sedentary and drining isn't good for preventing alzheimers, but can drinking consistantly cause it to come on earlier than it would have? His sister has it also, she was not a drinker though. Also, they both seemed to start having symptoms soon after their spouses died. I mostly want to know the effects of drinking alcohol and possibly getting the disease. Thank You,

Thank you for doing your report on Alzheimers. My mother was diagnosed 2 years ago, and at 88 is not on any medication. She is able to manage by herself in an independent living facility for now. She is very forgetful and confused, but the worst part is when the FEAR takes over. Usually in the evening she is very afraid, but she doesn't know what she is afraid of. Has anyone else dealt with this??
She has 2 older sisters and 1 younger sister living, and I would be very INTERESTED IN ANY TESTS that can be done.
Your report on the test really didn't say anything.
From my point of view, yes patients should be told. My aunts and I all wonder every day if we will be next!! You need to mention what kind of testing is available and who is doing it. Please finish your reporting soon.

Thanks - I am 57 - taking Namenda and Razadyne. I have been living with E.O.A.D. for several years. I have had a slower progression than some people and can still mostly take care of me with a little assistance. We need to understand that there are an awful lot of us in early to moderate stages who are still able to communicte. DANSI has helped me meet many others who as I can speak and somedays speak rather well. Most people only know Alzheimer's as the late stage older people. Even doctor's question and I find that I am seldom HEARD because I appear to be normal. Some people who had not seen me for several years visited at Christmas and they both wept. They remembered who I was. They are good to stay in touch with me but a number of people seem to be afraid or embarassed and I am therefore somewhat abandoned. I do not drive now for three years and sometimes is very lonely. I am competent to go out for lunch or short trips but seem to have been forgotten.
I am not feeling sorry for myself. This is a common reaction and until the general population and professional, medical personnel recognize that we are still people and some of us for a long time the stigma and misconceptions will remain.
I WAS a caregiver previously so I can appreciate the hard job they have -- but understanding what is happening with us would make their jobs easier I believe.
We need a lot more communication and understanding of this most wicked disease.

Thank you for your piece on alzheimers disease. I can relate to Rachael's response. My mother was angry and verbally abusive to us, my dad and anyone who ventured into her path. None of us did anything right or good enough. I have had a lot of hate for her over my 51 years. But when she was diagnosed with Alzheimers about 5 years ago, her disposition changed. She's sweet, happy to be in my or anyone's company, is thankful for the time we spend together. Every time we talk on the phone she says I love you at the end. Rachael's right, the mother you always wanted has now come to you as Alzheimer's is taking her brain. I had to let go of the anger, she's not the same person. My dad is a saint. He takes such good care of her. She's been on aricept for the past 5 years and it seems that it has slowed the progression of the disease. She's healthy otherwise and one thing we've learned is to take one day at a time.

My husband of 46 years was diagnosed with Alzheimer's in 1999. He is now 73 years of age. He is on Exelon and Namenda. He just started taking Risperdal because he was getting very agitated. Alzheimer's is not only devestating for the patient, but for the whole family. It is difficult to see my husband's regression and so damn irritating that there is nothing that can be done to prevent the detirioration. I know that eventually I will no longer be able to care for my husband and will have to have him in a nursing home. Like Mr. Ruppert, my husband would hate to be in such a place. And, like Mr. Ruppert, I really believe he had Alzheimer's years before he was diagnosed. I hope and pray that soon they will find a cure or a way to stop the progression. I worry about my daughters and grandchildren developing Alzheimer's. I would also like to see a series done on the Caregiver's. As the Alzheimer's progresses the Caregivers are on duty 24/7 and have little time for themselves. If you fall in the middle income ladder there is very little help available. The drugs for Alzheimer's are very expensive and because there are no generic forms of these new drugs most insurances will only pay a small portion if any of the cost of these drugs. I do have a great outlet which is the "Link2Care" web page that is sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association. We vent and try to help one another via our own experiences and are just there for one another. Unless you are going through being a Caregiver, you have no clue what it takes and how it affects your whole life.

My wife was initially diagnosed with AD about 6 years ago,at the age of 51, but I had noticed some substantial declines prior to that, but things came to a head when her job performance started to decline because of her memory loss. She took the neuropsysc battery of tests and the diagnosis was confirmed. She had to retire from teaching. She has been on Aricept from the onset, when introduced started Namenda along with several vitamins taken daily. None of this has helped and she has gotten worse. She was recently given some Lipitor as a study showed that might help. She continues to get worse, can no longer drive, cook or sew. She needs help in bathing and dressing and before she went to an adult day center, started taking walks, but could not remember how to get home. Thanks to her Lab, they were able to get her home. She slides further and further down into what I call the Black Hole of Alzheimer's from which there is no escape. Her last mini mental score was 3 (out of 30 questins) and one of her doctors thinks she may have had AD for as long as 10 years. I have wanted to take her off some of the drugs as I don't think they do any good, but the MD says it is the only hope she has, but it is certainly a poor one. Putting her in an adult day care was a blessing as it has helpr]ed to be come more alert, animated and she is starting to take pride in her appearance again. The hardest thing for me as her caregiver is seeing the person you love just being devasted by this terrible disease.

A great comfort and moving video is called "A Vow to Cherish" about a man whose wife came down with AD. Suggested viewing for all who cope with this disease. My husband's aunt lives in our home and has it. At the age of 93, she remembers little but is able to function with basic routine self-care. Janet Pinkham, Oxford, Maine

I feel that your reporting I've thus far seen about Alzheimer's patients is unbalanced. My mother, a widow, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease four years ago and is in assisted living in a nursing home. In the beginning, I had to take away her car keys because she kept getting lost. I had to make the arrangements to have her moved to a care facility because she was cognitively incapable of understanding her condition. Now, she must wear an electronic bracelet because otherwise she will wander off the floor and possibly out of the building. She doesn't know what day of the week it is much less the year, and the worst of the disease is yet to come.

This is a disease that not only robs the patient of their memory but their personality and functionality. With time they can no longer read, engage in a conversation, or take care of themselves without assistance from others. The terrible thing about this disease is that it progresses slowly over time and there is nothing one can do about it. The medications, which didn't work for my mother, at best can only stabilize the patient's condition for a short time. They do not improve the individual's condition, contrary to what some people believe.

In fairness to your viewers, you should also show Alzheimer's patients who are either in advanced stages or marginalized because of race or income.

To all involved with Alzheimer's:
There might be something coming down the pike to treat AD. A small test is being conducted in Iowa right now. If more progress is made by this Alzheimer's patient, I'll be more than happy to let any of you know what it is that did the trick. ~~~~~Gil

My wife was diagnosed with Alzheimer's 6 yeas ago and she has been taking Aricept from the beginning and recently added Namenda. She accepts the fact that she has the disease. I have her working with a personal trainer 3 days a week, our doctor has stated there are all types of variations of the disease, we just haven't identified them all yet. My wife started havingshort term memory loss at age 62 and now at 69 things are starting to get a little worse. I would like to send a note or E-mail to Vicky and Jim Ruppert, can you advise me how to get in touch with them? Most people who have this disease are in their 80's so a younger patient is unusual our doctors has stated, very nice reporting.

To Mr. Bazell: Hello Mr. Bazell. Just a note to commend you for the reports on Alzheimer's. Please be aware that not all research into early detection is coming out of the large institutions. My colleague and I are on the verge of making an assessment available publicly, for screening for dementia in it's earliest detectable stage, sometimes referred to as MCI (Mild Cognitive Impairment). Sure, there is no cure, but some of the currently used drugs such as Donepezil can potentially keep an individual at home for an extra year or two, which has very significant emotional and financial ramifications, when multiplied by the several million Americans projected to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease in the next decade. By chipping away, detecting the signs of cognitive impairment at an ever earlier stage, we are making an impact until that hoped-for breakthrough occurs which results in a cure/prevention for this dreadful condition. Keep up the good work.

Paul Braun
Dementia Screening, Inc.

Well done piece about Alzheimers. I have lived with Alzheimers - taking care of my mother until she finally passed two years ago. The type of Alzheimers that Will has is early onset - it is the type that is more likely to be passed on to children (genetic) than the late onset type - which we hear about often - and that affects so many of our elderly. There are things you can do to create a healthy lifestyle such as eat well, exercise, stay socialized, keep your mind active, do what you would do to prevent cardiac problems that could help prevent late onset Alzheimers. Getting old does not mean getting alzheimers if take steps to take good care of yourself now. If you need info or to talk to a counselor, call the Alzheimers Association - 1-800-272-3900 for more information or go to www.alz.org. I am now a helpline counselor and we get a lot of calls asking or basic information so don't hesitate if you have questions or concerns. Alzheimers is an awful disease and the more you learn about it the better.

Regarding AD: The role of diet:
I believe that our system is designed to age gracefully in the physiological sense and therefore so much depends upon as to how best we take care of it. One of my concerns is the role of diet. It is indeed a well-known fact that cholesterol and saturated fats are often associated with AD. While most of the debates are more focused on how to treat AD or how to deal with it , I am just wondering if adequate dietary habits or changing diets according to the age of your system, may decrease the risk of developing AD? A potential means of “PREVENTING”, if I may. If so, how much awareness is created along this line ?
My sincere prayers are with Jim and Vicky.

I want to congratulate and thank you and NBC for airing this segment. Our society is on track for a serious "train wreck" regarding Alzheimers Disease. The costs of care are and will be devastating to families of moderate means. As your program illustrates, this is no longer "just" a disease of those who have manged to live to old age. Early onset Alzheimers seems to be on the rise. To be afflicted in "the prime" of your life is devastating for the victim and his/her loved ones and other caregivers, both emotionally and financially. I am a caregiver. I am just turning 55 this month. My wife April will be turning 59 in April. She has been diagnosed with AD since around 2000, though in retrospect her symptoms began to develop over 10 years ago. Now she is completely dependent on others for all aspects of tasks of daily living. While she knows who I am, she more often doesn't remember my name. I'm glad you chose to focus on the personal aspects of the disease. Your decision to not focus on the treatment was wise, in my opinion. Current treatments are only delaying tactics. While research is ongoing and provides glimmers of hope for future victims of this disease, for current sufferers and caregivers these are truly just glimmers and more of false hope. I would like to see another segment focus on the dilemma of caregivers. Society is woefully unprepared for dealing with this looming crisis. While early diagnosis of the disease may provide opportunities for early treatment and slowing the progression of the disease (open to debate, I believe), I would caution anyone about being very aggressive in determining the likely cause of early symptoms until the individual and family has their financial picture secure. Don't count on the government to help in any significant way until you have already exhausted your resources. We hear a lot about long-term care insurance, but just try getting it if you have anything in your medical record which remotely suggests a possible predisposition to or early diagnosis of dementia of any sort. Prior treatment for depression can exclude a person from qualifying for long term care insurance! Who, realistically, focuses on long-term care needs when they are in their 30s or 40s, or 50s, when there are mortgages, college expenses, and retirement expenses competing for savings resources? Finally, in your current segment with Jim and Vicky Ruppert, Jim talks about the reactions of others when they learn of his diagnosis. An AD sufferer's and caregiver's greatest support comes from their friends and acquaintances who know of and understand (to some degree) the nature of the disease. I can't over-emphasize the value of sharing one's thoughts, feelings, and concerns (as an AD sufferer and/or caregiver) with others and taking the step of asking for and receiving their assistance. I have found tremendous strength from friends and former strangers when we allow them "in" to our lives. Again, thanks for shedding light on this important subject!

Please could you tell me if there is a test that can be taken in or around Boise Idaho? My father died of complications of Alzheimer’s. I would like to know if I am going to end up totally nuts and in a nursing home. I would strive to live even more fully, while I could.
Thanks you so much for the news story. I have found it interesting.

Hello I watched the the Interview of Mr.Jim Ruppert and his wife Vicky and was really touched and I know that I have some Information that can give them hope where there seems to be no hope. And If it's possible I would like some contact Info. so that I can send them the Information that I have that would be a blessing to them.

In telling Jim Ruppert's story, you've captured the true essence of courage. We continue to be amazed and inspired by Jim and Vicky, both by their steadfast advocacy for Alzheimer's awareness and research, and their grace in living every day to the full. Our family is blessed to call them neighbor; we, too, hope to keep Jim (and Vicky) close by for as long as we possibly can.

I think it is a crime that people like Jim Ruppert are not offered the alzhimers vaccine. Sure, 60% of those who take it have some bad side effects, but 100% of those with Alzhimers have bad side effects. It should be a choice.

I am very happy for the Rupperts that Jim is so lucid. Living around the corner from my dad who was diagnosed in his late 50's (He is now 64.) & watching the speed at which this disease has stolen his ability to communicate has taken a toll on us all. However, he is still hopeful that the medical community will find a way to restore his cognitive abilities and memory one day soon. Oh, how I pray for that too--- for my dad, the Rupperts, and all the families affected by this terrible disease.

Mr. Bazell, Thank you for your time and attention to this growing public health crisis. The aging of our nation's baby boomer population means the U.S. is facing a pending Alzheimer's disease epidemic that stands to place our public health system in a crippling, bankrupting crisis. Your stories will help focus public attention on the need to invest more federal money in Alzheimer's research aimed at disease altering drugs and a cure. If we fail to find a way to slow the progression of Alzheimer's symptoms in patients and, ultimately, a cure, the aforementioned dramatic increase in Alzheimer's cases will overwhelm our Medicare and Medicaid budgets. It is as much a pending economic disaster as it is a human and public health tragedy. Thank you for your efforts. The people and communities affected by this disease must now encourage their federal and state lawmakers to take action. Thank you.

Paul J. Attea
Secretary, Board of Directors
Alzheimer's Association

i was very disappointed with the segment on Alzheimer's disease. It was very brief and simplified this devestating disease. I think you should do a longer piece and show the public the effects of this disease on the victim and the family. It is MUCH more than just "forgetting" a word or sentence. My mom at the age of 72 is not much more than a vegetable now. She was a vibrant, active, beautiful woman of 67 when she was first diagnosed.The public must be informed in order to pass legislature to help diagnose early and possibly find a cure for a disease that forces families to remain in a state of grief for years with no end in site. Families would like to keep their loved ones in their homes, but there is not much assistance given for this 24/7 care. Do a piece on the devestation this is to those who care for these poor souls. Wake up America, we boomers are aging and we cannot ignore this disease much longer. It affects all walks of life and will become an epidemic if we do not educate ourselves and encourage lawmakers to give more aid for research and assistance with care.

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