To have a family member show early signs of Alzheimer's disease can be a hard fact to face. Such was the case for the Hughes family when their loved one, Dr. Janet Mitchell, 57, was stricken with an early onset of the neurodegenerative disease. Mitchell, who had served as a leading OB-GYN in the New York area specializing in neonatology, is believed to have lost her home as a result of an undiagnosed case of the disease, according to a recent ABCNews.com report. Mitchell reportedly transferred the deed to her Brooklyn brownstone, presumed to be worth $1.5 million, to Mamun A. Mirza, whom the family believes she made contact with after responding to an Internet ad from a subprime lender. Documents obtained by the ABC news program "Nightline" indicated that Mitchell signed over her home in exchange for her debt being paid off -- approximately $200,000. When Mitchell's niece Dana Hughes was asked if her aunt knew what she was doing when the papers were signed, Hughes told ABC: " ... There is no way she would have signed away her house without a lawyer, on a handwritten contract, and get nothing in return." Family and friends believe that Mitchell was taken advantage of by Mirza. Hughes declined further comment citing the family's possible legal action. Mirza could not be reached.
No longer in her home, Mitchell is currently residing in a long-term care facility.
How Young Is Too Young?
While early onset cases like Mitchell's are rare, they are not unheard of. According to Karen L. Bell, M.D., associate clinical professor of Neurology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, age is by far the greatest risk factor for developing Alzheimer's, with cases being seen in 4 to 5 percent of the population over age 75 and 16 to 40 percent of people over 85.
When referring to Alzheimer's, the word dementia is never too far behind. However, Bell says that the terms are not synonymous.
"Dementia is a general term used to describe the syndrome of the loss of memory and other thinking abilities which are significant enough to interfere with activities of daily living," Bell explained.
"Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and is a disorder of the brain, which causes progressive deterioration of the memory, word-finding difficulty, decreased judgment, difficulty performing familiar tasks, as well as changes in behavior and personality."
Though there is no cure for Alzheimer's, Bell added that the disease does not cause death. However, the common causes of death associated with Alzheimer's are malnutrition, dehydration or infection.
Facing the FactsApproximately 5 million people across the country have Alzheimer's, according to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America. A recent study sponsored by the organization shows that 70 percent of black caregivers were more likely to dismiss symptoms of the disease as old age, compared to 53 percent of caregivers of other races. The findings also revealed that on average it took 31 months after symptoms started before the disease was diagnosed. New York neurologist Carolyn Barley Britton, chair of the National Medical Association's Board of Trustees and associate professor of neurological studies at Columbia University Presbyterian Hospital, says that forgetfulness is the hallmark of Alzheimer's. But it may take more time to diagnose when a person has some awareness of their memory loss and confabulates. "When a person confabulates they make up an explanation of why they can't remember things," she said. "I would be careful if the person is of age and has a family history of Alzheimer's and starts to show signs of forgetfulness." If you suspect someone you know may be showing signs of Alzheimer's, contact his or her primary physician. In the doctor's office, the Mini Mental State Exam, a test that looks at things such as orientation, recall and registration, can be conducted to test memory loss. Symptoms of Alzheimer's DiseaseMemory loss Disorientation Language impairment Impaired perception Suspiciousness, paranoia Anger, aggression Wandering Hallucinations, illusions Sleep disturbancesFor more information on Alzheimer's disease visit the National Institute on Aging at www.nia.nih.gov. Source: Jet Magazine. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. Powered by YellowBrix.