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what if its not alzheimers

the first change Nildo Harper noticed in his wife, Alicia, was that she stopped laughing.

Alicia had an infectious laugh, but five years ago when she was 73, she could no longer detect when something was funny. She simply stared. Then she stopped playing the piano. Over the next few years, her memory worsened, and she couldn’t get around without a walker. Even then, she could only walk seven or eight feet. When she tried to make her way to the bathroom, she often wet the floor.

“It was really hard," said Nildo, 82, who lives in a suburb of Orlando, Fla. His wife needed constant care. “We’ve been married for 58 years, and we’d been living happily. I thought, ‘This is just what it means to get old.’”

When she came back to bed from the bathroom one night, she told Nildo she wouldn’t sleep in their bed. “Why not?” he asked. “That’s not my bed,” she said, not recognizing the bedroom of their home of 25 years. He turned the mattress 180 degrees. “Okay, that looks right now,” she told him.

What Alicia was experiencing may sound, as Nildo thought, like progressive mental decline possibly caused by Alzheimer’s. But in Alicia’s case, it turned out to be a condition called normal pressure hydrocephalus, or NPH, a progressive brain disorder that so closely mimics Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases that many doctors miss it.