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Early On-Set Alzheimer's: One Year Later

Pittsford, N.Y. - It has been one year since we met Amy Norton, a woman from Pittsford who was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease two and a half years ago.

She was 43 years old.

We checked back to see how life has changed for her, her husband and two teens.

The day we visited Amy in the family's home, we also met her caregiver. Amy now has two caregivers who split the week keeping her company.

These visits are just one of the many changes for the Norton family in the last year.

While working on a craft project, Amy is excitedly speaking to her caregiver, Virginia, but her speech is largely unintelligible. This, too, is a change for her.

Amy barely spoke when we first met her.

"Really, for the last six or seven months, we really don't know what she's saying to us," Amy's husband Brian explained. "But she's telling a story. We try to read into what she's saying to us and go along with it."

Brian Norton said Amy has also become less aware of her condition so she's more relaxed and calmer with fewer bouts of aggression.

"A year ago she was more closed up for many reasons," Brian said. "As she's lost some self-awareness through the disease, she's become more comfortable, relaxed, smiles more, gives hugs more."

Although Alzheimer's has robbed Amy of her memory, parts of her personality have returned. She walks more slowly these days, but she's able to keep up with her two teens, Megan, 16 and Justin, 13 in a game of hoops in the driveway.

It's moments like these that allow the Norton children to forget, if only for a little while, that Alzheimer's will cause a change in their mother's condition again.

They may be young, but Megan and Justin are very aware of the situation and its impact on them and their father.

"I think we've gotten a little more comfortable with it," Megan said. "We've adapted pretty well, and how it's changed, and having a caregiver here helps a lot more, so now he can spend more time with us but also we have someone to take care of Mom."

"She can't do much but she's still with us", Justin said.

When asked if it bothers him sometimes he says, "Sometimes here and there but I just get over it. It's fine. There will always be tomorrow. That's what I think."

The Nortons have become advocates for the Alzheimer's Association. At this year's "Walk to End Alzheimer's" their team raised more than $10,000 for the organization.

If you'd like to learn more about Alzheimer's and the many programs and services that help families and individuals facing a diagnosis go to www.alz.org/rochesterny.

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