Parker said people age 60 and older with and without memory problems are needed to participate in longitudinal research studies.
Singleton’s family has a long history of Alzheimer’s disease that stretches back to her paternal grandfather and an aunt.
Fred H. Singleton Jr., who died Aug. 14, started to experience memory lapses in 2000, when he was taking longer to tell stories, a favorite pastime.
“He fell into the vascular camp,” his daughter said. “I call it the triple threat — hypertension, noncompliant diabetic, heart arrhythmia.” Those same ailments put Jackson’s mother at risk for the disease.
Jackson, a retired Internal Revenue Service employee, said she knew something was amiss in 2005, when her mother suddenly experienced a drop in her blood sugar level and didn’t recognize a family member.
In 2009, she said, doctors at Emory’s Wesley Woods Center diagnosed Lois Williams with short-term memory loss. The diagnosis changed recently to mild cognitive impairment.
Williams becomes easily agitated and forgets how to do things that used to be second nature to her, such as activating her home’s alarm system.
Singleton said it wasn’t until 2010, after being told repeatedly by doctors that her father’s memory losses were likely due to “old age” or “a few mini-strokes,” that she finally brought him to Emory and doctors diagnosed him with Alzheimer’s.
“I felt a little bit of a relief, but it was also anxiety provoking because I have a sibling and a 6-year-old, so I started to think, ‘Are we next?’ and ‘What can we do to prevent this?’ ” Singleton said.
With more research, she said, she hopes a diagnosis will be more forthcoming for the loved ones of others, and the challenges caregivers face will become not quite so overwhelming.