SAN DIEGO, March 3, 2015 —Actress Julianne Moore’s Oscar-winning performance as Alice, in the movie “Still Alice,” is a big win for the awareness of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Based on the book written by neuroscientist turned novelist, Dr. Lisa Genova, Moore’s character was inspired by Genova’s personal experience of being a granddaughter of a grandmother who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 80.
According to Genova, in an interview with CBS News, in addition to conducting brain research with a professional neuroscientist, “I found what was lacking is an understanding of what it feels like to have it.”
Unlike Genova’s grandmother, Moore’s character Alice develops early-onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 50.
Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease can occur in people aged 30 to 60.
It accounts for less than 5 percent of all people who have Alzheimer’s, according to the National Institute on Aging.
The NIA suggests that a number of different genetic mutations occurring on human chromosomes 21, 14 and 1 are the causative factors. It is thought to be largely familial in origin.
Further, it is indicated that a child with one or both parents who are carriers of familial Alzheimer’s disease (FAD) has a 50/50 chance of inheriting it. If he or she has inherited one or more of the genetic mutations, “the child will almost surely get FAD,” says the NIA.
There are four major gene mutations that are indicative of FAD, according to the Alzheimer’s Association:
- Amyloid precursor protein (APP)
- Presenilin-1 (PS-1)
- Presenilin-2 (PS-2)
- Apolipoprotein E-e4 (APOE4) Though the presence of this gene is indicative of the greatest known genetic risk factor, it does not mean that Alzheimer’s will develop.
Several common symptoms are exhibited upon the development of early-onset Alzheimer’s:
-Losing track of dates, times and seasons
-Depth perception errors and other visual problems
-Noticeable mood and personality changes
-Poor judgment and decision-making
-Withdrawal from social and/or work activities
Though many of the symptoms can be part of the normal aging process and not indicative of developing Alzheimer’s, they can potentially be troublesome for those in younger age groups.
If any of the symptoms are regularly experienced over time, it would be wise to seek assistance from a qualified healthcare professional. Exploring symptoms or concerns could also help to alleviate any possibly unfounded fears.
However, if there are any problems that need to be addressed, early diagnosis and treatment of early-onset Alzheimer’s is a big step forward in ensuring the best overall quality of life for years to come. Though there is no known cure for early-onset Alzheimer’s, there are treatment options, medications and assistance that could make a positive difference.
Many of those with early-onset Alzheimer’s have spouses, extended families, school-aged children, careers and more.
When journalist Greg O’Brien discovered he had early-onset Alzheimer’s disease at the age of 59, he was reportedly in shock.
In a recent interview in US News, O’Brien openly discussed some of his experiences and said, “There were horrific symptoms of short-term memory loss, not recognizing where I was…not recognizing familiar people.”
O’Brien added, “I describe the early stages of Alzheimer’s as a loose plug in a socket. Sometimes the light flickers; sometimes the plug falls out…I am Alice (character in “Still Alice”) without the dress.”
Extensive research is under way to help find a cure for early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. For further information and to learn more about participation in research studies, contact the following organizations:
-Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral Center (ADEAR)
-National Human Genome Research Institute www.genome.gov
-National Center for Biotechnology Information http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
-Alzheimer’s Foundation of America
Actress Julianne Moore’s brilliant performance in”Still Alice” as a well-educated professional woman who is also a wife and mother, poignantly brings Dr. Genova’s ground-breaking novel to the stage of everyday life.
There is simply no ignoring the fact that early-onset Alzheimer’s disease could make an unwanted entrance through the door of any family’s home, changing its dwellers unexpectedly and forever.
Until next time, enjoy the ride in good health!
Laurie Edwards-Tate, MS, is a health care provider of over 30 years. As a featured “Communities Digital News” columnist, LifeCycles with Laurie Edwards-Tate emphasizes healthy aging and maintaining independence, while delighting and informing readers. Laurie is an educator and a recognized expert in home and community-based, long-term care services.
In addition to writing for “Communities Digital News,” Laurie is the president and CEO of her firm, At Your Home Familycare, which serves persons of all ages who are disabled and infirm with a variety of non-medical, in-home care and concierge services.
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