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Alzheimer's Disease

Alzheimer's Disease affects four million American adults and is the most common cause of dementia.

Caring for an Alzheimer's patient is difficult under the best circumstances and when that patient goes to the hospital for unrelated care, the trip can prove frightening and result in further deterioration.

But a unique program at Manhattan's Cabrini Medical Center is changing that approach, News 2's Paul Moniz reports.

Believed to be the first hospital dementia unit in the country, caregivers are given 24-hour access to their loved ones and taught how to better care for them. They are even allowed to sleep in the same room.

The unit is a radical departure of how Alzheimer's patients are normally treated.

When they come in for routine care, most hospitals place them on regular floors where the hustle and bustle can be frightening and can actually deliver a setback.

"They refuse to eat and they resist care," says Dr. Jeffery Nichols, chief of geriatrics at the Center.

At the Cabrini ward, each patient has a custom meal plan and caregivers fill out detailed information about a patient's lifestyle.

"You really want to know what these patients patterns are," Dr. Nichols says. "Sometimes they may need a certain blanket to go to sleep and we encourage the family to bring in what they need."

Having a quiet, flexible environment is giving all the caregivers the courage to get through another day.

The Alzheimer's unit at Cabrini does not have a waiting list and is covered by insurance. Call (212)995-6000 and ask for Windows to the Heart, sixth floor.

The scientific community is making progress in diagnosing the disease.

The Food and Drug Administration is reviewing a urine test that may help doctors diagnose Alzheimer's earlier.

The 7-C gold test works by measuring the amount of a brain protein thought to be associated with the disease.

It's aimed at early diagnosis: study results show it's about 80 percent accurate.

Scientists in Israel were seeking to explain an unusually high incidence of Alzheimer's in the Arab community. When they tested the DNA of more than 250 study participants, they expected to find the cause was a dominant gene, passed on by one parent. But only a few people had that dominant gene.

Scientists are now linking a recessive gene, a gene that must be inherited from both parents, to the degenerative disease.

The hunt for that gene continues.

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