Laura Lucas of Campbell is a young professional starting her career. She has also been forced to take on an unexpected job: Caring for her mother who has Alzheimer’s disease.
“She recognizes me but she doesn’t know I’m her daughter,” Lucas said.
Doctors diagnosed her mother two years ago at the age of 56.
“I thought at this age my mom would be there for my landmark events like getting married and some day having babies and unfortunately she is not going to be there for that," Lucas said.
Lucas is joining thousands of others this fall and taking part in the Walk to End Alzheimer's. It is the Alzheimer's Associations biggest fundraiser. The walk in San Francisco this Saturday is the largest of its type in the country and will likely raise $1 million to go to the care and support of those impacted by the disease like Lucas and her mom.
Lucas is not alone. The number of children in their 20s who are now caring for parents with Alzheimer’s is growing. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, four percent of the 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer’s were diagnosed before the age of 65.
Ericka Smith with the Alzheimer’s Association now runs a support group for caregivers of patients diagnosed in their 50s.
Her own mother was diagnosed at the age of 52, when she was only 25.
“I would spend four nights a week caring for my mom and have to leave work early to help care for her,” Smith said.
When she first stated the group a few years ago,only two people attended. Now 15 people have joined her support group. She says the toughest part is enjoying time with your parent even though your relationship has changed.
Lucas admits it has been a tough adjustment because she has always considered her mom her best friend.
“Now that I have this additional stress and challenge in my life, I need my mom’s advice and she is not able to give it to me,” Lucas said.
New projections show over the next 20 years the number of Californians living with Alzheimer’s disease will double.
For more information, visit www.ALZ.org or call the 24-hour help line at 1-800-272-3900.