CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - September 21 is World Alzheimer's Day and right now there are more than 80,000 South Carolinians living with Alzheimers. While most people think it's a disease just affecting the elderly, it actually can affect anyone.
Mary Myers was diagnosed at 49. "The thing that bothers me the most is not how my life is going downhill but what it's doing to his life and what he's going to have to take care of on his own," Myers said of her husband, Ben.
She first started showing signs in her mid-40's. "I didn't recognize people I didn't see regularly, I couldn't remember names," Myers said.
They thought it could be a number of things including sleep apnea, but it was Alzheimer's.
"I figured that would be somebody in their 70's or someone not just turning 50's I thought I still have a lot of life," she said.
Dr. Jacobo Mintzer says the disease can strike people as young as their early 40's and manifests itself in different ways. "The critical sign is when because of their intellectual abilities they cant do something they could do before," Mintzer said.
For Mary it started by not remembering names and now it has progressed. "Which pot do I use to cook this? How do I prepare it? What cabinet has the plates? The mixing bowl? It's starting to affect our lives more and more," Ben said.
Ben says as her caregiver, he's learned a lot about patience and it's helped him tremendously to talk to other caregivers. Yet, one of the hardest hurdles -- the day she no longer recognizes him -- is still looming in their future.
"I know its coming... I've learned that through my support group, I know it's coming," Ben said.
"That's depressing, I cant imagine that!," Mary said.
The Myers' are doing whatever they can -- participating in research studies, looking at photo albums, and playing word and number games. Mary says while she's sad it happened to her so young, she's glad she was diagnosed early.
"Because even though I've not got the best of my life left I've got a good part of my life left, and I'm thankful for it," Myers said.