The jokes about “old-timers’ disease” aren’t funny and they’re inaccurate.
We think of Alzheimer’s patients as septuagenarians in nursing homes, but then there’s early-onset Alzheimer’s, which strikes, well, early.
Early-onset of the disease can begin when people are in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. Because early-onset is often more difficult to diagnose, there is unfortunately a delay to diagnosis – If recognized early treatment, which may include medications, cognitive training, and therapy can slow the progression of the disease and maintain mental function longer.
Because dementia is so strongly associated with older people, younger people can feel extra stigma and discrimination. A younger person may not be believed when they say they have been diagnosed with dementia or people don’t believe that they can have dementia if they can still function.’
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, up to 5 percent of the more than 5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s have early-onset.
OPICA’s Adult Day Program has members who have early onset dementia, and when visiting OPICA, you might think they are volunteers. Individualized programming helps them feel at home and a welcome member of the OPICA family.
There is no shame in having Alzheimer’s regardless of an individual’s age – it’s a disease. If you or someone close to you has the disease, you can be a part of the solution by speaking out and educating others. Dementia is the biggest health challenge facing society today, but it doesn’t get anywhere near the attention it deserves.