When Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Strikes

Alzheimer’s is often thought of as a disease that only affects seniors. While age can bring an increased risk, Alzheimer’s disease 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 at age 30.

Diagnosed with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s at Age 30

Ken Dodson was told he had early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at age 30. 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 a week before his 30th birthday.

The couple has faced many difficulties as they struggled to find resources to deal with the diagnosis, as most services 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 friends, insurance and jobs because of it.

Using Their Experience to Raise Alzheimer’s Awareness

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.”

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, will be featured in a documentary from Lauren and Seth Rogen’s Alzheimer’s Awareness organization “Hilarity for Charity,” and has written a children’s book about Alzheimer’s.

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

“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 early-onset Alzheimer’s? We’d like to hear more about your experiences or stories in the comments below.

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Please leave your thoughts and comments

  • jennifer

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

  • Michelle

    I lost my husband at 43 because of this disease. And his brother will meet him in heaven any day now at just 39. There needs to be a cure.

    • caitlinburm


      So sorry to hear about your familial experience with early-onset Alzheimer’s, and know that we are keeping you in our hearts and minds. What a devastating disease.

  • Boogie Wilkerson

    I am 43 years old I was diagnosed Early Onset Dementia in April 2016. I was told I can last like I am now for 15 -18 years but, I could go downhill over night. I’ve lost my career and my Attorney office is going after Metlife for me. I can message and get some messages out that make sense but other days not so bare worth my grammar and spelling. Talking vocally sucks especially to new people or stressful situations. I feel like I have no one to relate too. So thank you for sharing your story.

  • Peggy

    My mother has had alzheimer;’s for 30 years & she will not die . I wish she could be
    put down legally .

    • BellaTerra66

      I understand. I really do. You really love your mother AND you’re SO TIRED.

  • just me

    My husband developed younger onset Alzheimer’s Disease when our youngest child was just a baby. She’s never known him without the disease. We fight back act.alz.org/goto/TeamGabbie

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