• St. Augustine firefighter family raising awareness about early onset Alzheimer's

    By: Brittney Donovan , Action News Jax

    Updated:

    ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. - Michael Riley dedicated his life to helping others. He was a firefighter in Orlando for 20 years before joining the St. Augustine Fire Department in 2008.
     
    After 8 years on the job, his wife Lani noticed he wasn’t quite himself.
     
    “He was quiet in his behavior. He started writing himself notes, little reminders and leaving them around the house,” she said.
     
    After doctor visits across the state, he got his diagnosis in August 2016 – early onset Alzheimer's.
     
    “There weren’t any solutions for him. It was clear that the disease was here, it wasn’t going to stop and it wasn’t going to slow down,” his wife said.
     
    Michael lost his job. He needs constant care and it’s hard for him to communicate with the people he loves.
     
    “You look at what you could’ve been,” he said. “Most of the time I look at it, it just happened. It’s just one of those things.”


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    According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s Florida region, he is among 200,000 Americans under the age of 65 living with Alzheimer’s.
     
    The Older Americans Act gives people over age 60 access to services and support. Michael was diagnosed at 55.
     
    “I was told he’s not 60, so he’s not eligible for services and I didn’t understand it,” his wife Lani said. “I was searching for help, everything from what do I do financially, legally?”
     
    Lani is now encouraging families to support the Younger Onset Alzheimer's Disease Act. 
    It would give families access to the same services as people diagnosed at age 60 and above.
     
    “Unless something happens for them to be able to reach those services, they’ll be stuck in the same situation we were, trying to figure out all the hurdles by themselves,” she said.
     
    She is sharing her family’s story so Michael can continue to do what he dedicated his life to, helping others.

    The Alzheimer's Association shared this information with Action News Jax:

    "The Younger-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Act would amend the Older Americans Act (OAA) to allow individuals under age 60 who are diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s disease to access the OAA’s support programs.

    Individuals living with younger-onset face unique challenges when it comes to family, work, and finances. The resources available under the OAA are a critically important support system for older individuals with Alzheimer’s, and we must make them available to individuals with younger-onset Alzheimer’s.

    Since 1965 the OAA has provided support to America’s seniors in their homes and communities by organizing and delivering nutritional programs, in-home services, transportation, legal services, elder-abuse prevention and caregiver support. Under current law, only those over the age of 60 are OAA-eligible, leaving Americans currently living with younger-onset Alzheimer’s unable to access vital OAA-funded programs and services that older Americans rely on. The Younger-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease Act would address this disparity and ensure those individuals living with early-onset Alzheimer’s have to access support services including nutritional services, supportive services, and respite care through the National Family Caregiver Support program.​"

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