Prior to vaccines and widespread public health initiatives, people in the U.S. frequently died at a young age from infections and illnesses that are today treatable or eradicated. As a result, many of the modern medical conditions that develop later in life are relatively new to medical researchers. One of the most prevalent and mysterious of these disorders is Alzheimer's disease.
Individuals who develop Alzheimer's experience problems with memory loss as well as loss of cognitive functioning, both which worsen over time. Eventually, the disease robs those affected of their ability to think clearly, reason and perform everyday tasks. The disease is often devastating to the lives of those afflicted as well as close family members and friends as individuals who are diagnosed with the disease only live an average of eight years after symptoms first appear.
Individuals who are age 65 and older make up the vast majority of Alzheimer's cases. The disease, however, can develop in those as young as 40. For a man or woman who is in their early to mid 40s, the effects of the disease are especially devastating. Often, individuals of this age still have families to raise and careers to tend to. Because dementia diseases like Alzheimer's mimic many other conditions and illnesses, obtaining a formal diagnosis can take months or years, thereby delaying treatment.
An estimated 200,000 people in the U.S. are living with early-onset Alzheimer's. The origins of Alzheimer's are unknown, although some forms are believed to have a genetic component. There is no cure for the disease, although certain prescription medications have been proven effective in slowing its progression.
For individuals diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's, the disease can make it difficult to impossible to keep working. For these individuals, Social Security disability benefits can aid in providing monthly income to help support one's family. Early-onset Alzheimer's is included on the Social Security Administration's list of Compassionate Allowances. Therefore, the applications of individuals who have been diagnosed with the disease are expedited and benefits are typically available within a matter of weeks.
Source: Alzheimer's Association, "Younger/Early Onset Alzheimer's & Dementia," Accessed July 15, 2014