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Stolen Memories: A three part Monitor series coming Sunday on early Alzheimer’s disease

  • GEOFF FORESTER



Monitor staff
Friday, April 06, 2018

They were all in the prime of their lives, at the top of their careers, in loving relationships.

Each one was in their 50s when they were diagnosed with a disease they thought only older people got – at least people a lot older than them.

In the series, “Stolen Memories,” the Monitor follows three families as they navigate the unique challenges that accompany an Alzheimer’s diagnosis before the age of 65.

​​​​​​Sunday will feature Paul Ernsting, a primary care doctor who used to treat Alzheimer’s patients. He never thought he would become one. But at 52, he found himself confusing words mid-sentence, and had to step away from his practice. He has had to fight through the stigma that comes with the disease, but declared he would not bow to it. “I’m not going to sit around and wait for my death sentence,” Paul said.  

Monday focuses on Andrew Harvard, who had been on four expeditions to Mount Everest when he was fired from his job as director of outdoor programs at Dartmouth College in 2008. His bosses said he mishandled department budgets, disappeared for hours at a time and didn’t return emails. Harvard was treated for depression for more than a year before being diagnosed with younger onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Tuesday looks at Ken Bouchard, who knew he had a family history of Alzheimer’s. His grandfather, his mother and her seven siblings all had it. But Ken was adamant there would be a cure before he got older. He never thought he would be diagnosed at 59. Since Ken’s diagnosis and death, Brenda has grown more involved in the Alzheimer’s community, sitting on the board of the New Hampshire/ Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Association and testifying at the State House for bills related to the disease. 

Younger onset Alzheimer’s occurs in less than 10 percent of people with the disease. Researchers are still scrambling to learn how the disease progresses and why. 

The disease is costly – both emotionally and monetarily – and deadly, with no cure is in sight – and leaves families with precious little time left to share a lifetime of memories.