Over the past several decades, Alzheimer’s disease has grown to what can only be referred to as “epidemic proportions” in the United States and around the world. Whether or not the disease is truly afflicting more people, or more people are simply being accurately diagnosed, remains up for debate. What is not debatable is that the figures relating to Alzheimer’s disease are truly shocking. For the majority of people, Alzheimer’s is something they only have to worry about suffering from after they have lived a long, full life. For a small group of people, however, the threat of Alzheimer’s begins much earlier in life in the form of “Early Onset Alzheimer’s.” Early Onset Alzheimer’s, or EOA, is passed down genetically – and there is a test that can tell you if you have the gene for it. The question is should you take the test for Early Onset Alzheimer’s?
Alzheimer’s Facts and Figures
The odds are favorable that you know someone who has Alzheimer’s disease. It may even be a close friend or family member given the prevalence of the disease in the United States. Consider some of the latest facts and figures relating to Alzheimer’s disease:
- Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the U.S.
- Alzheimer’s is the only cause of death in the top 10 in the U.S. that cannot be stopped, prevented, or even slowed.
- 1 out of every 3 seniors will die with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia
- 2 out of every 3 sufferers of the disease in the U.S. are women
- In 2015, costs related to Alzheimer’s and other dementia diseases cost the U.S. over $225 billion
- By the year 2050, the costs related to the disease are expected to rise to $1.1 trillion
What Is Early Onset Alzheimer’s?
For the vast majority of Alzheimer patients, symptoms of the disease do not show up until they are well into their retirement years. For roughly one percent – 5,000 to 10,000 people worldwide – the symptoms of the disease begin to show up in their 40s. This form of Alzheimer’s is known as “Early Onset Alzheimer’s.” The other, equally important, aspect of the disease that sets sufferers of EOA apart from the majority of the victims of the disease is that EOA is hereditary. The gene mutation that causes EOA is passed down genetically, giving the offspring of someone with the gene a 50-50 chance of inheriting the gene mutation.
A victim of EOA can expect to start having short-term memory problems as early as age 40. By age 50, most victims of EOA are in the final stages of the disease and most die shortly thereafter. For families who have the gene, knowing about the disease is bitter sweet. Generations of victims have often died in “sanitariums” because medical science lacked the knowledge to properly diagnose the disease. Not only do we now know about EOA, but a genetic test is also available that can determine if the mutant gene is present or not in a family member. Deciding whether or not to have the test done is a highly personal decision.
To Test or Not to Test
Thanks to advances in medicine and science, a simple blood test can now determine if the mutant EOA gene was inherited or not. Knowing, however, doesn’t change the fact that the disease cannot be prevented, slowed, or cured. Is it better to know what lies ahead or not if there is nothing you can do to stop it? That is at the heart of the decision to have the test done or not for those children of parents with Early Onset Alzheimer’s. For some, the incentive for the test has more to do with the decision to have children or not than knowledge for its own sake given the fact that very little can be done even with prior knowledge that the disease is lying dormant.
Though the odds that you will suffer from Early Onset Alzheimer’s are very low, your chance of getting Alzheimer’s in your later years are much higher. While there may as yet not be a cure for the disease, one thing you can do is to plan for the possibility by having a comprehensive estate plan in place that includes an incapacity planning component.
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding estate planning, contact the experienced New Hampshire estate planning attorneys at Debruyckere Law Offices by calling (603) 894-4141 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule an appointment.