Group Offers Support for Younger-Onset Alzheimer’s

Each month, several Alzheimer’s disease patients and their family members gather at St. Peter’s Church in Elmhurst for Without Warning, a support group for people with younger-onset Alzheimer’s.

“When we typically think about Alzheimer’s we think about people who are in their 70s and 80s,” says Susan Frick, a social worker with the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, “but there is this group of people who are under the age of 65.”

“The mission of Without Warning is to give a voice to people with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease,” says Anna Treinkman, an advanced practice nurse with the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center. “We at Rush started this with the impetus from people who are younger, who didn’t feel that they had any connection when they would go to support groups that were stricly for Alzheimer’s disease — a lot of older people — and they had nothing in common with them.”

Participants take immense comfort in the monthly gatherings.

“I really look forward to coming on Thursday,” says one Without Warning participant, whose husband has Alzheimer’s disease. “I just think it’s really healthy to come to terms with the disease. I learn more about it, I learn more about myself. I just don’t feel like I’m alone, which is how I feel most of the time.”

Related post:

Living Gracefully With Younger Onset Alzheimer’s

By Susan Frick

Every month for many years, I have had the wonderful opportunity to listen to an amazing group of people. Their knowledge and insights have taught me about living while facing some of life’s most difficult challenges.

Sponsored by the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center, this monthly group is for people living with younger onset Alzheimer’s disease (diagnosed under the age of 65). Our group, called Without Warning, is for both the person experiencing memory problems and the family members or friends who are also on this journey. We meet to talk about how to live gracefully with Alzheimer’s. We talk about the difficulties, but also the triumphs. I’m one of the several staff people who help coordinate this growing and vital program.

As you can imagine, having Alzheimer’s disease at such a young age is often unexpected and can be an overwhelming experience. These individuals describe Alzheimer’s as feeling like they have fallen into a pit and can’t find the way out.  They talk about feeling disconnected from people who are right around them. They talk about a tired feeling they have never felt before. And, they talk about realizing that they are not the same spouse, parent, child or friend. Continue reading