What is early- onset Alzheimer’s disease?
Although Alzheimer’s disease is commonly associated with people over the age of sixty five, early-onset or younger-onset is more prevalent than most people are aware of. According to http://www.alz.org It is estimated that nearly 4 percent of the more than 5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease have younger or early- onset. Many people in their 40’s and 50’s have been diagnosed with early-onset and in the United States alone it is estimated that more than 200,000 people suffer from early-onset. Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at such an early age not only has a devastating impact on the individual, but also on their families. This is the story of one such family, a very close, caring and loving family, this is the story of my family. It wasn’t me who was diagnosed with this wretched disease though, it was my wife and neither of our lives or our daughter’s will ever be the same again. Our journey and struggles are ever changing, but we remain positive and hopeful that one day soon a cure will be discovered finally putting an end to this debilitating disease. But in the meantime, if I can help other families who find themselves in the same situation as we are by writing about and sharing our experiences and coping mechanisms along the way, then I know our journey has not been in vain.
Signs and symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease
My wife was an extremely intelligent woman and was once sharp as a tack. She has a Bachelor’s degree in history and could, if asked, easily throw out an exact date for events in history. I jokingly teased her that she was an endless storehouse of useless knowledge, but sadly that storehouse has been greatly depleted. Diagnosing early-onset is a difficult task as there isn’t a specific test that can be performed and the disease can mimic other common conditions such as stress and depression. It took us almost two years to get an accurate diagnosis and that road was a living hell for everyone involved. According to http://alzheimers.about.com these are a few warning signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease;
- · Forgetfulness
- · Regularly losing items
- · Personality changes
- · Confusion
- · Difficulty executing common tasks
- · Challenges with basic communication and language skills
- · Cannot follow simple directions
What made the diagnosing of my wife more challenging was the fact that the onset of this disease coincided with me becoming permanently disabled after it was discovered that I had severely ruptured several discs in my neck and back from a fall down a flight of stairs at work and I was just mere centimeters away from becoming permanently paralyzed. I have had to undergo eight major surgeries in two and a half years to rebuild and correct the damage and to say that there was great stress involved for everyone in the family would be a gross understatement. That is why the doctor’s, well, specifically my wife’s primary care physician attributed her symptoms to stress and depression stemming from my life changing event. She was put on a regiment of antidepressant’s and anti- anxiety medication, but none of that seemed to help and she continued to get worse, not better. As I became stronger, healthier and returned to a somewhat “normal” life, she steadily deteriorated and I finally had had enough and began making phone calls and researching Alzheimer’s disease online. I had already been through almost three years of a painful, debilitating, horrid nightmare and I truly believed that a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s for my wife would send me over the edge causing me to have a nervous breakdown, but it didn’t. I became stronger and my family became stronger and together we were going to face this head on and win.
Please be sure to check out part 2; “The Appointment that Changed Everything”