When Dementia Strikes at an Early Age   

When Dementia Strikes at an Early Age

Sheldon and Robin Furman

May 03, 2022

Sheldon Furman was a typical father and husband, but at age 54, his life took a drastic turn.

The father of two girls suffered a massive heart attack, known as a widow maker, caused by a 100 percent blockage of the left artery.

“We thought we were going to lose him,” says Sheldon’s wife, Robin.

Thankfully, Sheldon survived the heart attack, but shockingly, his family said they started to lose him in another way. “We noticed that his memory and cognition were failing,” explains Robin.

Adds Manisha Parulekar, M.D., chair of the Division of Geriatric Medicine and co-director of the Center for Memory Loss and Brain Health at Hackensack University Medical Center: “People with heart health issues are generally at higher risk for dementia, particularly Alzheimer’s.” 

Sheldon also had a family history of the disease—his mother suffered from it.

“It was devastating to receive Sheldon’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis,” Robin says. “We had our whole lives ahead of us, and one of our children is still in high school.” 

Raising Awareness

The Alzheimer’s Association reports that more than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, and it’s predicted that number will double to 13 million by 2050. Alzheimer’s disease most commonly affects older adults, but it can also affect people in their 30s, 40s and 50s, like Sheldon.

Sheldon is no longer able to work. His wife says he has good days and bad days, but he no longer remembers most of their friends or what their life was like prior to this disease. His experience, however, has given him a new life’s mission.

“I would like to be an ambassador for Alzheimer’s,” he says. “If I could help raise enough awareness, perhaps one day there will be a medication that could help others.” 

Not Losing Hope

“It’s really tough, in a way. I did lose him to some degree, but I haven’t yet lost hope,” Robin says.

Sheldon is now a patient with the Center for Memory Loss and Brain Health at Hackensack, where Dr. Parulekar and team are working to prolong his cognitive abilities and improve his quality of life.

“A diagnosis of a memory disorder such as Alzheimer’s disease is scary and impacts all aspects of a patient’s life, not to mention their family’s,” Dr. Parulekar says. “The Center for Memory Loss and Brain Health at Hackensack University Medical Center aims to provide an innovative and holistic approach to support patients and families.”

Next Steps & Resources:

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