When Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Strikes at Age 30

Alzheimer’s is often thought of as a disease that only affects seniors. While age can bring an increased risk of the disease, Alzheimer’s can also strike early, leaving families confused and heartbroken.When Early Onset Alzheimer's Strikes at Age 30

Learn more about one family’s personal battle with early onset Alzheimer’s.

Diagnosed at a Young Age

Ken Dodson is 29 years old and has been told he has early onset Alzheimer’s.

With a new home, a wife and three young children, the diagnosis was a shocking blow to the family. His wife knew something was wrong when Ken forgot familiar things, like how to get home from the grocery store. He was getting headaches and his memory loss even led to him losing his job. At first, Ken was put on anti-depressants, but when the symptoms did not improve after months of medication, Ken and his wife Nikki went to see a neurologist who diagnosed him with early onset Alzheimer’s one week before his 30th birthday.

The couple has faced many difficulties as they struggled to find resources to deal with the diagnosis, as most are only offered for caregivers of senior parents or loved ones.

Meanwhile, the disease is taking an emotional and financial toll on the family as they have lost their jobs, insurance, a good credit score and even friends because of it. Nikki has taken over caring full time for her husband. She speaks about her new life saying, “Some days I’m still a wife, but most days, I’m a caregiver. I’ve lost the man that I married. He’s another man now, and I still love him, but it’s so different. I just keep trying to be the best wife and mother I can be.”

Using Their Personal Experiences to Raise Awareness

Nikki is also using her personal experiences with early onset Alzheimer’s to raise awareness about the disease to help the other 200,000 Americans living with it. She strives to make as many connections as she can, has written a children’s book about Alzheimer’s, and will be featured in a documentary from Lauren and Seth Rogen’s Alzheimer’s Awareness organization “Hilarity for Charity.”

She says that she knows her efforts to raise awareness can not save her husband from the disease. But, she hopes that by helping others she will beat Alzheimer’s in a way.

She says, “I know my efforts to make other people aware of Alzheimer’s are not going to help Ken; I know it’s not going to save him. But if it’s going to help my children or my nephew, or somebody else, then I’ll feel that Alzheimer’s didn’t beat us – we beat it. We hope that people will hear our story and know that this disease can happen to anybody. We also hope that sharing our story will save others from having to go through some of the difficulties we’ve undergone.”

Do you know someone impacted by Alzheimer’s at an early age? Share with us in the comments below. 

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  • jennifer

    Dear Nikki you are so amazing you are in my prayers I so admire your strength and courage.

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