What to know about dementia and Alzheimer's disease

With Jack Hanna's family announcing he has dementia, ABC News' Dr. Jennifer Ashton will talk about the pace of deterioration and answer questions.
2:23 | 04/08/21

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Transcript for What to know about dementia and Alzheimer's disease
We want to talk more about our friend jack Hanna. Jack's family announced he has dementia and Alzheimer's disease and Dr. Jen Ashton here to answer our questions about that and, Jen, let's start O by talking about this path from dementia to Alzheimer's. Well, first of all, dementia, there can be multiple type, Alzheimer's is the most common. It tends to be a diagnosis of exclusion if the other types aren't at play, but if you take a look at these brain images I think it really speaks to what's going on in the brain. You see on the left a healthy brain, then in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease you start to see a shrinking or atrophy then as the disease progresses, you see a marked loss in what we call gray matter. This is important not just for memories and cognitive but overall function as well. One thing his family said his condition progressed much more quickly than they expected. Is that common? It's not common. Most cases of Alzheimer's actually progress more gradually and more slowly but, of course, there are always exceptions and individual differences. You know, people can have a life expectancy from 3 to 20 years after an official diagnosis but I think it's important for also people to remember the signs and symptoms that could be warning signs so they include things like memory loss or trouble with what we call activities of daily living, could have mood and personality changes or increased anxiety and/or aggression. So if the person or those around him or her tart to notice these thing, it's always a good idea to get a formal evaluation. So many people suffering from this have so much distress. How do care givers help them deal with that? Yeah, big focus on care givers that are about 16 million of them in the United States and the key for them because they're often thrust into this environment is to set a routine, to try to stick to a schedule, to ask for support and professional help and remember self-care for the caregiver is essential, they won't be able to help the person suffering with the disease if they're not helping themselves and just finally on a personal level, of course, jack, a big part of the "Gma" family. I've had the pleasure and honor of meeting him several times over the last ten years and sending him and his family all my best wishes. Yeah, we certainly all are, Jen Ashton, thanks very much.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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