Living with Down syndrome isn’t as difficult as it used to be thanks to social and medical advancements. However, as Americans with Down syndrome are living longer, a second neurological disorder is becoming more common later in their lives: Alzheimer’s disease.
Scientists have understood that the two conditions share a genetic connection, but it wasn’t until recent years that they began to see it play out in real life. Now agencies that provide help to people with developmental disabilities are quickly trying to add resources for dealing with Alzheimer’s as well.
It is believed that people with Down syndrome face a higher risk of Alzheimer’s disease than the general public. Additionally, the disease often strikes them earlier in life and it tends to progress faster. In fact, more than 50 percent of adults over 60 with Down syndrome also have Alzheimer’s, while just 6 percent the general population over 60 suffers from the condition.
Unfortunately, adults with Down syndrome who have found careers they enjoy may be forced to quit due to an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. This is what happened to a 57-year-old Midwestern man with Down syndrome who worked as a bagger at a grocery store for 20 years before developing Alzheimer’s. The man was forced to quit after Alzheimer’s made him forget how to perform his job.
The situation is another example of one of life’s cruelest twists of fate: Oftentimes, people with one disabling condition end up suffering from others as well.
The good news is that there are benefit programs such as Social Security Disability that can help provide financial support to individuals who are forced to leave the workplace because of a disabling injury or condition.
Most Americans want to work and provide for themselves but sometimes that’s just not possible after one or more serious conditions set in. In this case, it’s important that these individuals get the help and support they need.
Source: Disability Scoop, “Increasingly, Adults With Down Syndrome Face Alzheimer’s,” Barbara Brotman, Chicago Tribune, Sept. 26, 2014