NEW YORK (CBS 2) — As you gather with relatives this holiday, you may notice some changes in some of your older loved ones. Half of all Americans know someone with Alzheimer’s, but as CBS 2HD’s Magee Hickey reports, there are some ways to slow the progression of the disease.

William Thompson III, 77, had always been the life of the party, a vibrant, gregarious man until last year around the holidays when one of his daughter’s noticed his personality had changed.

“I told the doctor what I thought it was. I said I believe he might have the beginning of dementia. He’s forgetting things and he repeats things and he’s just not the same. They ran some tests and they said yeah that’s what’s going on with him,” said daughter Lorre Grimsley.

So now Thompson, the former transportation head for Newark’s Board of Education, has a caregiver from a program called Senior Helpers who comes in every day to bathe and feed the 77-year-old. More importantly, aide Francis Dominique engages Thompson in activities that keep him more mentally alert.

The Senior Helpers’ Alzheimer’s Prevention Program is something that family members can do on their own. They include “brainy day activities,” doing specially-designed games and puzzles, similar to crossword puzzles.

Another activity is creating a life bio journal for the loved one, showing pictures, asking questions and chronicling the person’s life to work memory and verbalization skills.

Physical exercises are also part of the plan to keep healthy and sharp.

“Having someone come in daily and interact with them, engage in meaningful actvities, going through crossword puzzles, conversation, reminiscing about the past, it keeps their mind going,” said Wayne Sarrow of the Senior Helpers group.

“He loves Francis. He teases him. He still has his wit,” said Lorre.

So this Thanksgiving, William Thompson and his family say they have much to be thankful for. “They’ve been very good to me,” Thompson said.

Alzheimer’s disease hits women harder than men. Two-thirds of those with Alzheimer’s are women.

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