Rancho Los Amigos Medical Center is scheduled to open a new clinic Friday to diagnose and treat Alzheimer's disease.
The clinic, which this month received a $600,000 three-year grant from the state Department of Health, will not only treat patients with Alzheimer's disease but also counsel spouses and family members.
Dr. Helena Chui, a neurologist and co-director of the clinic, said that past medical practice has been to diagnose and treat the patient, but "there's really been no help for the family."
"There's all sorts of emotional difficulties and reactions, guilty feelings and frustration and resentment that have to be aired," said Chui, an assistant professor at USC School of Medicine.
Body Stays Healthy
The disease causes the brain to deteriorate while the body remains healthy. It begins with a loss of short-term memory and personality changes and ends with patients left in a "vegetative state," she said.
Although there is no known cause or cure, patients with the disease typically live eight to nine years, Chui said. During that time, families are encouraged to keep the person afflicted with Alzheimer's at home "as long as possible."
"As a general rule, we think that care of the family is better" for the patient and the family, rather than placing the person in a nursing home, she said.
She added that because many other afflictions can be confused with the disease, including strokes, depression and side effects from drugs, it is important for patients to be properly diagnosed.
The clinic initially will treat 60 patients but is expected to expand to about 100, Chui said. Patients primarily are from Los Angeles County, but can come from elsewhere in the state, she said.
The co-director of the clinic is Bryan Kemp of Downey, a psychologist.