Alzheimer's used to be considered a disease that afflicted only the elderly. Today, it's claiming younger lives and impacting younger families. Dr. Robin talks to Josh Fischman, senior writer at U.S. News and World Report, about his recent article, "Alzheimer's Today." She also welcomes Charley Schneider, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease.
Josh says doctors have been blind for the past three decades to the idea that people younger than 65 can get Alzheimer's. "If you talk reasonably well and you function reasonably highly, it's very difficult to get a doctor to look at you and run the proper tests," Josh says.
Charley says he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's three years ago at the age of 52. However, symptoms began showing up at the age of 50, when he lost coordination and had tremors. Charley says he went to neurologists who told him he had nothing to worry about, which led him to research his symptoms on his own. "I thought it might have been Parkinson's or [multiple sclerosis]—both can give you memory problems as well," Charley says. "Unknown to me, the doctor was checking me for Alzheimer's also, and then when he had all the evidence back, it took us totally by shock."
Charley, who has been married for 36 years and has two children, says his life has changed immensely, with simple multitasking becoming a huge strain. "In the world, people have peripheral vision, and they can also see things going on around them while they're focusing on a particular thing," he says. "We don't have that ability. We have one track and we have to switch tracks."
Charley fears most the affects of his disease on his wife and children. "I think to many of us, that is the one thing that bothers us: You spend your life trying to do good for your family, and then the thought that someday that same body could be taken over and be used to do harm is just a pretty unbearable thought."
Published on December 13, 2006
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