The Birches Presents “Too Soon to Forget: The Journey of Younger Onset Alzheimer’s Disease”

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Written by Jenny Smiechowski, staff writer for The Birches

When you think about Alzheimer’s disease, you probably picture someone in her 80s or 90s living in a memory care community as her memory slowly slips away. But thousands of Americans develop Alzheimer’s much earlier than that. They develop Alzheimer’s when they’re still working full-time, supporting a family and have young children at home.

Roughly 200,000 Americans have younger onset Alzheimer’s. Many are in their 40s and 50s when the disease strikes, although the term “younger onset” applies to anyone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s before the age of 65.

People with younger onset Alzheimer’s and their families often feel alone. They face different challenges than people diagnosed at an older age, and there are less resources to support them. That’s why Susan Frick and her colleagues created the documentary “Too Soon to Forget: The Journey of Younger Onset Alzheimer’s Disease.”

Frick is a social worker for the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center and the director of Without Warning, the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center’s support program for individuals and families faced with younger onset Alzheimer’s. “Too Soon to Forget” follows nine families who are members of Without Warning.

“People were just very generous about allowing camera crews into their home,” said Frick. “It was so rewarding and humbling to watch what the families did and how open they were in sharing their stories. I was at almost every film shoot, and it was a pretty amazing process.”

Frick, who’s directed the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center’s younger onset Alzheimer’s support group for 14 years, says the idea for the film came from support group members’ desire to show what Alzheimer’s was like for younger people like them.

“I’m hoping the film allows people to see the emotional journey of going through something like this and how it’s not an easy process for the person with Alzheimer’s or for family members—particularly with younger onset,” said Frick.

The Birches is an official site for the Rush Memory and Aging project, which means many Birches residents participate in Rush University’s long-term study on Alzheimer’s risk factors. As a Rush Memory and Aging site, The Birches is one of only a handful of sites in suburban Chicagoland that has the opportunity to screen the film.

“We feel fortunate that we can share this eye-opening film with the people in our community,” said Birches Executive Director Jackie Sander. “We think it will help a lot of people affected by younger onset Alzheimer’s realize that they’re not alone.”

The Birches will screen “Too Soon to Forget: The Journey of Younger Onset Alzheimer’s Disease” on September 12 at 6:00 pm. The screening will be followed by a discussion with Susan Frick. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. Please RSVP by calling 630-581-7350 or e-mailing mbeatty@birches.net.