RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) – We often think of Alzheimer’s as a disease affecting elderly patients, but did you know it can strike people in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s? Signs can begin showing up much earlier than you’d expect.
“We didn’t tell anyone that we’d gotten married. We had a huge party in the backyard,” Kitty Kennedy says with a smile, looking at one of her absolute favorite memories. She found love with an old friend from high school, and sadly he does not even know her anymore. She and Bill had a secret wedding day. Six years later he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at 58. Kennedy knows now that he had been showing signs since his early 50’s.
“There were late payments, there were things that weren’t being paid. He was easy to anger which was very unusual because he was never angry. His driving wasn’t as good, very subtle changes,” she remembers. “At first we thought he was tired, then we thought maybe he’s depressed. We went through a series of reasons. We were short-circuited. We did not expect the diagnosis.
Bill is one of about 200,000 people in the United States with younger-onset Alzheimer’s. A diagnosis can be tricky, with even doctors suspecting anything and everything but. “We knew something was wrong. We just didn’t know what was wrong,” says Kennedy.
After the diagnosis, Bill’s Alzheimer’s progressed so rapidly that he is in a long-term care facility now. Kennedy misses the man she knew, who she wrote about in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias.
As hard as it was losing him to such a cruel disease, Kennedy is thankful it was detected when it was. “We would have struggled so much harder and it would have been, there would have been an awful lot more pain.”
What’s a normal part of aging, and what’s Alzheimer’s? The Alzheimer’s Association, Greater Richmond Chapter is holding two seminars to help you differentiate:
Rockwood Village, Midlothian
AARP at Moose Lodge, Mechanicsville
Call (804) 967-2580 to register or for other information.
Copyright 2014 by Young Broadcasting of Richmond