Moviegoers and members of the motion picture academy were captivated this year by Julianne Moore’s performance as a 50-year-old college professor diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease in the film “Still Alice.” Based on the 2009 novel of the same name by neuroscientist Lisa Genova, the film has raised awareness of the realities faced by patients and families coping with this form of the disease.
The main character in “Still Alice” discovers that she is living with an uncommon form of this difficult disease. Early-onset (also known as younger-onset) is diagnosed when Alzheimer’s disease is present in someone under the age of 65 years old. Statistics have shown that around 5 percent of people with Alzheimer’s were diagnosed with the early-onset form. Symptoms will be similar to other forms of the disease, but due to a patient’s younger age, symptoms could be dismissed as signs of stress or depression. Warning signs include memory loss that has an impact on daily life, such as forgetting information that was recently learned. Other warning signs include losing track or confusion around time or place, and difficulty completing tasks that were once very familiar. Ten warning signs as outlined by The Alzheimer’s Association can be found here: http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_10_signs_of_alzheimers.asp. While this list can be very helpful, please keep in mind that there is always a need to follow up with a medical professional to determine next steps, like medical testing.
The Alzheimer’s Association is a powerful resource that aims to re-frame the way our society views Alzheimer’s disease. Societal pressure and misinformation can lead to depression and isolation in patients. This 2-minute video offers brief statements from those living with the disease and bravely working to overcome the stigmas associated with it: http://www.alz.org/i-have-alz/overcoming-stigma.asp. The faces and stories of the disease are diverse.
When managing early-onset Alzheimer’s, it is important to note that diagnoses could arise while patients are still working full-time and providing for their families. Coping with a potential future loss of income can be debilitating for families. Consider consulting a financial planner and attorney when faced with this new diagnosis. Among the vital steps to take are to ensure that you have planned for the future through necessary legal documents such as a durable power of attorney, trusts, and advance health care directives. You can also explore what benefits you might be entitled to as a result of an early-onset diagnosis.
Weatherby & Associates, PC will take the time to meet with you and address the legal and personal ramifications of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. You and your loved ones do not have to feel alone in this challenging process. Call our office at 860-769-6938 with questions or to schedule a consultation.