Living with Early-Onset Alzheimer's Disease: Andrea's Story
For this article, we interviewed Andrea Gallant. Andrea reached out on Facebook to share about her journey with early-onset Alzheimer's.
Being diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's
What was your Alzheimer's diagnosis like?
I was not surprised when I finally was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's disease, as I had had symptoms for several years before I began the yearlong testing process.
What was your experience dealing with a cancer diagnosis and an Alzheimer's diagnosis in the same year?
It certainly was a roller-coaster of emotions. I remember praying for just 1 day where I did not think about having early-onset Alzheimer's, then I received the cancer diagnosis. I can tell you that made me stop thinking about my Alzheimer's diagnosis so much.
Receiving the cancer diagnosis made me realize I wanted to live, even with Alzheimer's. It helped me to understand that there are worse things and that I need to make the most of every minute I have.
The trauma of dealing with both diagnoses and the loss of employment and insurance was certainly trying.
How has your life changed since your Alzheimer's was diagnosed?
It has touched every aspect. Nothing is the same as it was before I was sick.
Managing through the stigma
Do you experience stigma when you tell people about your Alzheimer’s?
Of course! People hear the word "Alzheimer's" and visualize a person who can't remember loved ones and who sits blankly staring into space.
The most common reactions are denial of the diagnosis, being spoken to like a child, hard of hearing or being ignored as if you are not in the room.
Do you feel supported by your doctors and family?
My family is a blessing. I receive a lot of support from them. My neurologist is available to me as a neurologist, not a support system. However, the facility where he works does offer several informational and support outlets.
Living WITH early-onset Alzheimer's
What do you want other people diagnosed with Alzheimer's to know?
A diagnosis is words. Nothing has changed in you, as a person, from before you heard the diagnosis to right after. Just because you receive a diagnosis does not mean you will die from it right now, nor does it mean your life will end within a short time.
Life can still be lived happily, even if the way it is lived changes over time.
What do you want caregivers of people with early-onset Alzheimer's to know?
We are still people with feelings, hopes, and dreams. We are not trying to aggravate. We do not forget on purpose. What you think are lies are realities in our minds. The last thing we would ever want to do is cause our loved one's unhappiness.
Hope for the future
Is there anything that you would like to add?
A cure needs to be found. Support, health, and insurance systems need to be put into place for people with dementia. The public needs to be educated about the Alzheimer's journey, and the stigma and shame that is inherent with dementia need to be removed.
Are you living with early-onset Alzheimer's? Tell us about your experience in the comments below, or share your story with the community.
Do you have any caregiving tips that could help the community?