"Still Alice" rings true to younger Alzheimer's patient

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Monday, February 9, 2015
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A new movie about dimentia is hitting home for some families in our area.

SOUTHAMPTON, N.J. (WPVI) -- In the movie "Still Alice," Julianne Moore plays a university professor coming to grips with early-onset dementia.

She's already won three major awards, and is a favorite for an Oscar. And her role hits home for some families in our area.

To friends, Tim Kaufman seems the same as ever. But life for him and his partner Ron has changed dramatically since his diagnosis with dementia two years ago.

"It affects my ability to plan, make decisions - focus," says Kaufman.

In fact, he wasn't sure he'd be able to focus long enough to do our interview.

Initially, Tim and Ron thought the early signs were just stress from a demanding job.

Doctors didn't immediately recognize it either.

"When you're 52-years-old, they don't want to think this is what's going on," says Ron.

Tim was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, called FTD. It is a group of disorders in which cells of the front lobes of the brain die.

It is believed to account for 10-15 percent of all dementia, and from 20-50 percent of dementia in under-65 Americans.

The Alzheimer's Association says younger patients often face a tougher time, losing their income long before retirement age, and struggling to get necessary services.

But the Association says some things are slowly changing.

Since the first signs arose, Ron says dementia has made Tim a very different person.

Ron notes, "Tim lost his perception of time."

"Oh, that was a big one," Tim chimes in.

"Tim has no emotions. Tim doesn't get upset, he doesn't get sad - he just sort of flat lines," Ron says.

Pointing to Ron, Tim adds, "He says basically, I'm a happy guy."

The two say the film "Still Alice" accurately depicts many aspects of dementia, such as the mental fog Alice has when she gets lost running across campus.

Tim says it happened to him at the supermarket.

"I remembered everything I needed in the store, and right where it was," said Tim.

"But then I walked out, and couldn't remember where I parked my car," he adds.

Ron can also relate to the denial Alice's family initially has about her condition.

"I have Alzheimer's disease," says the main character. "Oh, God!" gasps her daughter.

"I just thought there's gotta be some cure," says Ron. "There's just gotta be some therapy, or some pill or something they can do that's going to make things OK."

But now they've accepted it, and are committed to making the best of each day.

Tim volunteers a lot of time with the Alzheimer's Association, speaking to groups and newly-diagnosed patients and serving as a member of the Early-Stage Advisory Group.

He and Ron hope the movie will spark more recognition and research of early-onset dementia.

"This movie is going to serve a good purpose to open the conversations," says Tim.

To learn more about the many forms of dementia, contact the Alzheimer's Association

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