Dr. Gary J. Kennedy

Here at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx we have begun to work with families in helping them appreciate a specific problem that patients with Alzheimer's disease have, and that problem is called executive dysfunction. By definition, executive dysfunction is that set of mental processes that we use to start, stop, and complete a particular task.

To give an example, sometimes persons with Alzheimer's disease are fully alert, highly motivated, and yet can't get their bathing and dressing acts completed without assistance. Now, if families recognize that it's not just a problem with memory, but a problem with actually executing the task, they can be of assistance to help with those components of the task the person fails with.

For instance, if the person is able to complete their bath, but has a hard time getting started, getting themselves organized for it, the family member can be of assistance for that one component. Similarly, if the person has difficulty selecting clothes, laying them out, getting the sequence of dressing correct, the family can be of immense assistance with that.

The point being is that family can assist with the elements where the person is lacking, and let them have success in the elements where they're completely competent.