Page last updated at 00:05 GMT, Wednesday, 30 July 2008 01:05 UK

The Long Goodbye: Part 2


Kris Bakowsk: 'I don't know if there will be a cure for me in my lifetime'

The second instalment in a World News America series on Alzheimer's looks at early onset of the disease.

"If my son gets afflicted, I want there to be a cure for him."

The son in question is Kris Bakowski's only child Alan, who's about to be married and begin work at a Washington law firm.

Life is good for Alan, from almost every perspective.

But his 52-year-old mother Kris, diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's disease six years ago, is frightened Alan may succumb to the terminal disease as well.

The younger the age at which the parent develops the disorder, scientists believe, the greater the risk to the children.

It is a startling but little known fact about the disease; one that has special resonance with Bakowski.

"I don't know if there will be a cure for me in my lifetime," she says. "But, I am working as hard as I can to help."

Searching for help

Bakowski spends the bulk of her time speaking out - at Alzheimer-focused conferences around the world, and to members of Congress on Capitol Hill.

What needs addressing most urgently, according to Bakowski, is the lack of an adequate diagnostic tool for detecting the disease, which in turn prevents some people from getting the help they need.

She discusses this, and her own story, on her blog, "Creating Memories".

Her diagnosis began with unusual behaviour, including memory loss that got increasingly worse.

It took six months of tests before it was determined she had Alzheimer's disease.

What followed was a mid-life nightmare.

She lost her job as a theatre director, several friends faded from her orbit and she went nearly four years without social security benefits.

Today, in her home of Athens, Georgia, Kris Bakowski has her job back - after a year of lawsuits - and her benefits.

But the real - and long - fight continues.

You can watch World News America's 'The Long Goodbye' series on Alzheimer's weeknights on BBC America at 1900 and 2200 ET and on BBC World News at 0000 BST (for viewers outside the UK only).

The Long Goodbye: Your Comments
01 Aug 08 |  Have Your Say
The Long Goodbye: Part 1
29 Jul 08 |  Health
The Long Goodbye: Part 3
30 Jul 08 |  Health
The Long Goodbye: Part 4
31 Jul 08 |  Health

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