PART TWO: EARLY ONSET ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE (EOAD)
Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease (EOAD) can develop between the ages of 30 and 40; though it is much more common to see a person diagnosed in their 50’s. Though not always the case, EOAD typically runs in families and some of those with EOAD have a mutation in one of three genes: the APP, PSEN 1 and PSEN 2.
Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease is different from Alzheimer ’s disease, not in the way the disease progresses, but rather in how the disease affects not just the person with the disease, but that person’s entire social network. Often times, a person diagnosed with EOAD may still have children living at home or may be caring for an elderly parent. They often are in the prime of their careers when the Alzheimer’s presents itself.
When a person is diagnosed with EOAD, they may experience a variety of feelings: anger, denial, depression, isolation and even relief to know that there is reason for the changes they have been seeing in their lives. The family of the person with EOAD is also affected.
Often times, those diagnosed with EOAD remain at home, which means that many more people are affected by the disease. Spouses may go through the same feelings of anger and denial, and often feel a sense of loneliness. Children may react differently based on their age. A young child may be fearful of the disease, while the teenager is resentful for having to take on more responsibility and the college bound child is reluctant to leave home as they want to remain at home to help.
It is not only family members who are affected by an EOAD diagnosis. Friends, co-workers and acquaintances may not know how to respond to the diagnosis. They may not carry on with their typical routines with the person with EOAD. They may be fearful of what the disease may do or they may simply just not understand the disease. This can contribute heavily to feelings of isolation by the one with EOAD and increase depression related to the diagnosis.
As mentioned above, many of those diagnosed with EOAD get this diagnosis while they are still a part of the work force. Though there may be some decline in work – related tasks prior to the diagnosis, these tasks will become increasingly difficult as the disease progresses. This often results in decrease in responsibilities, decrease in hours and eventual early retirement.
When a person is diagnosed with EOAD, there is a significant amount of planning that has to occur for the future. Financial planning is of utmost importance. Loss of income, increase of health costs and increased difficulty in obtaining life and health insurance are factors that do not typically affect those with typical AD. Care giving is also an important issue. While the spouse or children may want perform all of the care giving, this is typically not possible. Spouses often remain in the workforce in order to maintain financial stability and children are often in school or raising their own families. Therefore, adult day care programs and residential facilities must be investigated. While placement in a long-term care facility is somewhat typical for a person in their 70’s or 80’s, this is a much more difficult decision for the loved ones of a person in their 50’s. This also contributes to the financial difficulties associated with the disease.
While Alzheimer’s Dementia affects the memory, thinking and behavior of all of those diagnosed with the disease, those with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Dementia face additional obstacles that affect not only the person with the diagnosis, but that person’s spouse, children, parents, friends, acquaintances and co-workers. Physical, speech and occupational therapists can help a person suffering from Alzheimer ’s disease at any age maintain their highest level of independence.