Alzheimer's cases expected to triple in coming years - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Alzheimer's cases expected to triple in coming years

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - The number of Americans living with Alzheimer's is expected to triple in the next 40 years. Currently more than 5 million people in the United States are living with the disease, and doctors still haven't found a cure. But experts say early detection can give patients a longer quality of life.

"It's changed my life," said Peggy Pate. "I had to quit my job because I couldn't mentally function.

Sixty-five-year-old Pate is one of five million Americans living with Alzheimer's disease. What started as forgetting to lock doors and turn off lights turned into forgetting much bigger things at work last year.

"I've done spreadsheets all of my life, and I couldn't remember how to do it. I didn't have a clue," Pate said.

"We've always been really, really close, and I noticed she quit calling me," said Pate's daughter, Becky Smith.

Smith noticed her mom getting forgetful, but initially blamed age and stress. She said she was in denial it could be anything worse.

"She had been my caretaker," said Smith. While she battled cancer for eight years, Pate was the one taking care of her. Now mom and daughter's roles are reversed.

"Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia we have out there," said Dr. Eugene Ryan at Parkridge Medical Center.

Dr. Ryan said women are more likely to develop the brain disease.

"Short term memory usually goes first, and long term memory is usually like something chiseled in stone," he said. "They can remember where they were on D-Day, but they don't remember what they had for breakfast."

Daily medicine is helping Pate's Alzheimer's from progressing too fast. She still lives on her own, and Smith helps with rides whenever she can.

The two best friends say they're thankful for the time they have now.

"We only have a limited number of years left," said Smith. "I always try to think to live in the present."

"I have ten years of living with my smile and great grandkids," Pate said with a smile.

June is Alzheimer's Awareness Month. For more information, click here.
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