Monday, April 23, 2012
A Parent’s Worst Fear: When Down Syndrome Leads to Alzheimer’s
Sometimes days go by and even weeks when I do not think about it.
However, it was a Sunday, an ordinary day, when I was forced to think about it. Dorothy called me. I knew Dorothy from a previous position I held in the disability world. She and her husband are devoted parents to Cheryl, who has Down syndrome. Dorothy and her husband forged a path of inclusion for Cheryl that allowed many of us to follow. Defying the conventional wisdom of the day, without Federal or state laws as protection, Cheryl was included in all aspects of life. She now lives independently and until recently, was competitively employed.
Immediately, I knew why Dorothy was calling. Call it a sixth sense or just call it knowledge. Cheryl had been diagnosed with the beginning of Alzheimer’s, an almost inevitable diagnosis for adults with Down syndrome.
Advances in medicine have extended the life span of persons with Down syndrome and also the real possibility of Alzheimer’s. There is an indisputable link between Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s. Anybody with Down syndrome, if they live long enough, will eventually develop this disease.