My Mom had early onset Alzheimer’s starting at age 53. She has recently passed away. But now my sister who just turned 40 has several signs that she is following in the same path. She denies anything is wrong, and gets very angry if anyone asks why she does odd things. How can we as a family (including her very caring husband) get her to admit something is not right and to see a doctor? We are very concerned, as she has two young sons who are also worried about their Mom.

First of all, I want to tell you how truly sorry I am about your Mom. I am sure that was a long and difficult time for your family. What a courageous and caring sister you are! I commend you for trying so hard to help your sister. This unfortunately is not an uncommon issue for many loving family members, close friends and even co-workers.

There are several factors that could be playing into your sister’s denial, and the most likely scenario is she is scared. She cares deeply about her sons, her husband, you and other family members, friends and just witnessed her Mom pass away from the very thing you are suggesting she has. Obviously I cannot diagnose her, but I feel strongly that once you have dealt with Alzheimer’s and dementia, you are a pretty good judge of others suffering from it. There are many suggestions to make, but there is no guarantee any will work until your sister is ready to accept what might possibly be happening.

Please work with her husband and children to try some of these things:

  • Have her read a book or watch some videos discussing symptoms. Then show her a list or video of her doing those very things.

  • Ask her to allay your concerns by seeing the doctor so he can prove you wrong (this could be tricky if you don’t have a doctor who knows her and/or who is reluctant to diagnose her). I suggest a meeting with the physician first.

  • Please stress to her that there are many other causes that could be mimicking the symptoms of Younger Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. There might be something as simple as high blood pressure that can be detected easily and treated with medication causing the symptoms. Although it is easy to jump to the conclusion of YOAD because of the family history, there are cases where the child does not have YOAD, but something treatable. But they must be seen to be treated. There is a long list of medical conditions the doctor can check her for and hopefully that will be the answer.

  • Remind her that if she does have YOAD, the earlier this disease is detected, the sooner she and her family can plan and prepare. On this note, it is a good idea to start getting finances and legal paperwork in order before and official diagnosis. There are certain things that cannot be done once she is (if she is).

  • Most of all, remind her you all are there for her, she is not going through this alone, and you all will take care of her. Part of being able to take care of her and making her care less of a burden on the family (which I am sure is fresh in her mind) would be getting the financials in order right away. Does she have Long Term Care Insurance and Life Insurance? Is her will up to date? Will she meet with an elder care attorney? She might feel more comfortable if she gets the sense everything is in order.

Good luck, and I send you all much love and warm thoughts.

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