MIAMI VALLEY, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) - There are currently 5.7 million people living in the United States who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease. For each diagnosis, it's estimated there are three caregivers.
Valerie Jones is one of them. Her mother Valy, an accomplished college professor with a PhD in Chemistry, was diagnosed 8 years ago.
After a series of odd behavior and the nudging of concerned family members, Valy eventually saw her doctor.
Valerie said an M.R.I. confirmed she had Alzheimer's, a progressive disease where dementia symptoms gradually worsen. It's the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and spans many age ranges.
"Every age from 50 to 85. It's affecting people even younger than that, in their 40's and 50's," said Sarah Cameron with the Alzheimer's Association, Miami Valley Chapter. "This used to be thought of as just an old person's disease and it's not."
Cameron said the disease is so unique because it not only affects the person diagnosed, but everyone around them as well. They will eventually lose the ability to make their own good decisions.
"I think the scariest part was that there was no cure and that overtime I would lose little bits of her," Valerie said. "That was probably the hardest part."
Devastated by her mom's diagnosis, Valerie found a local support group.
"It gave me a chance to see people at different levels and even going to the support group, you hear so many stories and everybody is at a different spot. It gives you an opportunity to be appreciative of the spot you are. At that point at the beginning, she was still there," she said.
Valy doesn't walk anymore and her speech is limited. It's difficult, but Valerie said her support group has become a second family. They're an outlet for her to vent her frustrations, and remind her that every minute with her mom is one she wants to remember.
"You have to be patient with the process, because you can beat yourself up so much that you lose the good moments," she said.
If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, write down the symptoms your seeing and go see your doctor. They will conduct a series of tests to rule out things like thyroid issues and vitamin deficiency.
For more information, or to find a support group near you, visit this website. You can also call the Alzheimer's Association's 24 hour hotline at 1-800-272- 3900.