Looking at a different face of Alzheimer's

By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal

EDITOR’S NOTE: Some 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, involving some 15 million family members in their care. The Daily Journal will report on the disease and its issues from the Alzheimer’s State Conference today through Sunday.

By Errol Castens
Daily Journal Oxford Bureau
OLIVE BRANCH – Ron Grant, a prison chaplain with a doctorate in ministry, found himself forgetting crucial points in counseling sessions – even that one inmate’s mother had just died. Before long he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease – at age 55.
Five years later, Grant articulately shared his story Wednesday at the Alzheimer’s State Conference, sponsored by the Mississippi Department of Mental Health. People with younger-onset AD, he said, face early retirement and the accompanying loss of income and health insurance.
He and his wife sold their house and moved to a smaller one, thankful that their children were already grown and independent. Not knowing how long his cognitive function would last, he set up a durable power of attorney and advance directives.
“When you’re 55 years old, you’re not really wanting to start planning your own funeral,” Grant said.
Getting such news is difficult, he said, but ironically it gave him some peace of mind.
“Being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is like an inmate getting a death sentence. But it didn’t have an execution date on it,” Grant said. “It changes your life dramatically, but it isn’t the end of your life.
“Here I am five years into my diagnosis, but I haven’t drooled on myself once,” he joked.
Alzheimer’s is the nation’s sixth-leading cause of death, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. It is also the only top-10 killer for which there is no preventative or cure.
“It’s not just one person’s disease,” said Monica Moreno of the Alzheimer’s Association. “It’s the whole family’s disease.”
errol.castens@journalinc.com