According to an article in USA Today, it can and it is more common than you would think. Most people develop Alzheimer’s long after their life has slowed down, mainly after the age of 65. But people can develop the disease as early as their 20s.

Patty Smith, 49, was a successful businesswoman for BB&T when all of a sudden, she started becoming forgetful, fumbling for words, and missing appointments. After taking some time off, the symptoms did not improve, telling Smith that it was not stress that was causing her forgetfulness. In November 2005, at the age of 51, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It was a shock to Smith, who had no family history of the disease.

Smith is one of an estimated 500,000 Americans who have Alzheimer’s before the age of 65. These people have additional pressures to face, as most of them are in the prime of their lives with careers, families, mortgages and other bills. In addition, since Alzheimer’s is not prevalent in those under 65, their symptoms can easily be dismissed as being lazy or under-performing. Many of them lose their jobs due to the disease or are forced to take early retirement. Most of them lose their health insurance and have trouble getting government aid that is designed for the elderly.

For more information on Alzheimer’s, please visit The Alzheimer’s Association and the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.

Bo Frith