Younger-onset Alzheimer’s: When symptoms begin before age 65

By Pamela Atwood, MA, Director of Dementia Care Services

Younger-onset Alzheimer’s is an uncommon form of dementia that strikes people younger than age 65. This rare form of Alzheimer’s affects work, finances, and family.

How common is Younger-onset Alzheimer’s?
Among all the people who have Alzheimer’s disease, only 5% develop symptoms before age 65. In this case, if 4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, at least 200,000 people have developed symptoms.

How do you suggest involving kids?
A diagnosis of Younger-onset Alzheimer’s can also be difficult for children. Children frequently experience a wide range of emotions. Teenagers may become indignant when they have to take more responsibilities for helping around the home. Perhaps, they may feel embarrassed that their parent is “different.” College-bound children may be reluctant to leave home to attend school.

Suggestions:
• Talk openly about the changes you are experiencing.
• Make a record of your thoughts, feelings and experience in writing, on video or in audio for your children. Your children will appreciate this when they grow older.
• Try to find activities you can still enjoy together.
• Invite children to attend support group meetings or any educational programs and events.

Are there financial issues to consider?
People with younger-onset Alzheimer’s often have to quit work, and this loss of income is a serious concern. Insurance and other benefits may be more difficult to obtain. Future health care costs should be considered.

Suggestions:
• Talk with a financial planner and an attorney to help you plan for your future.
• Ask your employer whether early retirement is an option.
• Explore what benefits may be available to you through Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.
• Organize your financial documents and make sure your spouse or partner understands and can manage your family’s finances.

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