Early Onset Challenges

By Robert Elmer III on October 15, 2014 in Uncategorized

Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in this country and it’s the only disease in the Top 10 Causes of Death without a way to cure or prevent it. If that doesn’t give you pause, how about the fact that there are nearly 5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s and approximately 5% of them or nearly 250,000 individuals are under 65 years of age?
Alzheimer’s is not just a disease for the aged. Although it’s true that aging is one of the risk factors, there are those who suffer from what is called “early onset Alzheimer’s” in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. When I give my lectures and cover this topic this is usually when I remind my audience to remember, “it’s not forgetting where the car keys are, it’s forgetting what the car keys are for.”
Specialist don’t have specific answers as to why individuals would contract this appalling illness at such a young age, however in several families around the globe it has been determined that the cause is genetic. In other words, it’s how they’re “wired.” Years ago, I worked with a gentleman that, quite frankly, was built like a fire hydrant. He worked out, watched what he ate and when you touched him it was like touching a granite boulder. In spite of that, his cholesterol was sky high and he had to be on medication or else. There’s the young father that had heart issues, as did his son and his two daughters. The father died in his early 40’s, the son in his early 50’s and one of the daughters in her late 60’s all from heart related problems. Your family medical history is important for you and your physician to be aware of which is why every physician you meet with is going to collect as much information on you and your family as possible. I’m often asked, “if my mother or father had dementia, will I get it?” Remember that there are a number of different types of dementia with a number of different causes. Head trauma, alcohol abuse, other health related issues like diabetes, vascular dementia or a history of bad eating habits are just some of the other factors than can contribute to developing dementia. If one of these examples were the cause of your loved ones illness and you’ve had no such experiences, I’d say relax.
The impact on a family with a loved one with early onset Alzheimer’s is significant. These individuals have or had careers, they have families including children and their parents may still be living. Although the symptoms are very similar to those that are much older with Alzheimer’s, dealing with those behaviors can be a real challenge. I was confronted once by a very frustrated wife that was angry that there was no “place” for her husband. He was 54 and suffered from early onset Alzheimer’s. It was getting to the point where it was becoming more and more of a challenge to have him home. He liked to ski, bike and jog so you can imagine the problems his wife faced when he wandered. Also imagine what life would be like for him in a traditional dedicated community where the average age of the resident is 85.
If you think you may have cause for concern you may want to consider getting tested for the “tell tale genes.” There are a couple of things to consider however. What would happen to your long term or disability insurance if you tested positive? Then there’s the fact that once you know, you can plan ahead to help your family cope with the coming challenges. It’s a question that always conjures up a great deal of passion.
If you have a question or concerns I can address please email me at repe@careforcaregivers.com and remember, Join the Journey.

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