Valley hospital offers resources for Alzheimer's patients, families

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- Bunny Allen started noticing changes in her husband, Bill, six years ago.

"He started losing everything. We couldn't find anything and we still can't," Allen said.

Since then, both she and her husband spend a lot of time at the Banner Alzheimer's Institute.

"It's very, very hard with each thing that he loses. You get kind of a sense of sadness about each thing," Allen said.

She attends support groups and says the friendship there is so valuable.

"I didn't always come in smiling and laughing. I mean, there were times when all I did was cry," Allen said.

Her husband attends classes like art.

"Bill loves to go to daycare, so he goes to daycare two days a week," Allen said. "He loves everything about it. He loves the food. He loves the people. He comes here for three classes a week, and he loves the classes, doesn't just like them, he wouldn't miss the classes. So he does 'With Art in Mind,' which is his very favorite."

And while there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease yet, Jan Dougherty of the Banner Alzheimer's Institute says early detection has come a long way in slowing down the disease.

"When we intervene early and with the right kind of medications, we probably have a tremendous chance for slowing it, if not stopping it. So that's pretty exciting, you know, because I think most middle-aged adults' No. 1 fear is developing Alzheimer's disease," Dougherty said.

Banner is holding many clinical trials on Alzheimer's, hoping to better understand, prevent and slow down the disease until there's a cure.

And Allen says while watching her husband slip away is devastating, through the support at Banner, she at least knows what to expect.

"It's the toughest road you'll ever go, and just don't go it alone," she said.

The Banner Alzheimer's Institute is looking for advocates for awareness and patients for clinical trials.

For more information, visit www.endalznow.org.

The Alzheimer's Association's Walk to End Alzheimer's will be held Saturday morning at the Wesley Bolin Plaza in Phoenix.