Families face tough decisions when treating Alzheimer's - WSFX - FOX Wilmington, NC

Families face tough decisions when treating Alzheimer's

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

More than 5 million Americans are suffering from Alzheimer's disease, and it's estimated that number will triple by the year 2050.

As the numbers grow, more and more families are being faced with what to do when a family member's Alzheimer's symptoms worsen.

Selma Baer, 88, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's seven years ago. Her daughter, Connie Baer, has been by her side just about every day.

"Even though she doesn't always recognize me or remember me, our connection is still there," Connie Baer said.

Alzheimer's is a deadly brain disease with no cure that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior.

After Connie Baer's dad died of cancer in 2011, her mother has lived with her family. But when Selma Baer's condition worsened, her daughter made the difficult decision to move her into the Belmont Assisted Living Center in Green Hills.

"I couldn't keep her safe. She wandered, and there wasn't structure in my home like there is in a facility," Connie Baer said.

This week, the wife of country star Glen Campbell announced her decision to place him into assisted living for the disease.

"To see what his wife was going through brought back so many memories of what I had gone through," Connie Baer said.

The move drew criticism from Campbell's daughter, but his wife says his health had deteriorated to the point he needed 24-hour assistance.

Dr. Paul Newhouse, professor of cognitive disorders at Vanderbilt University, says he often weighs a patient's condition by their caregivers.

"Sometimes I've seen very saintly caregivers put their own health at risk," Newhouse said.

On her daily visits, Connie Baer does memory exercises with her mom.

Singing helps ease some of her anxiety.

And the most important thing, Connie Baer says, is just being there.

"It doesn't matter if mom can't recognize me. I recognize her," she said.

Vanderbilt researchers are working to create robots that would help Alzheimer's patients practice mental exercises even when family members can't be there.

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