How to make an impact on Alzheimer's

Glen Campbell performs during the Alzheimer's Association Evening with Glen Campbell at The Library of Congress on May 16, 2012 in Washington, DC.

Story highlights

  • It's estimated more than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer's
  • Various organizations offer ways to help patients, caregivers and family

(CNN)With Glen Campbell's last energetic performances, you'd never guess the rhinestone cowboy and Grammy winner was battling Alzheimer's disease.

Soon after his diagnosis, Campbell and his family embarked on a farewell tour. CNN Films "Glen Campbell...I'll Be Me", released in 2015, documents his journey and shows how the disease impacted him, his family and friends.
    According to the Mayo Clinic, Alzheimer's disease destroys memory and blocks important mental functions.

    What is Alzheimer's?

    An estimated 5.5 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, according to the CDC. Alzheimer's is more than just forgetfulness, and every case is different. It is sometimes labeled an "old-person's disease" but although less common, it can afflict relatively young people too. There is no cure for the disease, but FDA-approved drugs can improve quality of life.
    The Alzheimer's Foundation of America is a great resource for more information. It is very important to recognize the signs and symptoms including:
    • Memory loss
    • Confusion about time and place
    • Struggling to complete familiar actions, such as brushing teeth or getting dressed
    • Trouble finding the appropriate words, completing sentences and following directions
    • Poor judgment when making decisions
    • Changes in mood and personality

    Dealing with Alzheimer's disease

    As Alzheimer's disease progresses, a patient's ability to handle daily tasks dwindles. This is why it is important to stimulate the brain with familiar activities. For Campbell, music played a supporting role in helping extend his memory.
    "When he commits to something that he's been doing for so long, it brings him so much joy," Glen's son, Cal Campbell said in the CNN Films documentary. "Then he actually becomes himself again."
    Along with exercising your brain, finding the right treatment, and maintaining overall health are essential.
    For patients and families affected by Alzheimer's disease, the Alzheimer's disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center offers help with diagnosis, medical programs and support groups for patients and families.

    Alzheimer's caregivers & family members

    As tough as Alzheimer's can be on patients, it can be just as difficult for caregivers and family members.
    Caring for someone with Alzheimer's can require round-the-clock monitoring and a lot of patience. People with Alzheimer's are prone to spells of frustration, anger and paranoia as they can be quick to think people are stealing from them.
    As Glen's wife, Kim, explained in the CNN film, "This is a really challenging illness for people to deal with every moment of their life. He can't find the bathroom in his own house... He clings to me like I'm his anchor for 'Who am I?' 'What am I?' I'm his safety blanket that he wants around all the time."
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    The Alzheimer's Association runs a Caregiver Center that provides help and information for every stage of the disease. Here you can find message boards, blogs, information on support groups and a 24/7 helpline.
    It's a battle you shouldn't and don't have to fight alone. Here are some resources for people who want to find out more or donate to help find a cure: