Healthy Living

Misdiagnosed with Alzheimer's for a Decade

Misdiagnosed with Alzheimer's for a Decade

At the age of 39, Michael Ellenbogen began to notice that he was having some issues with his memory, despite being well educated, active, and healthy and constantly challenging his mind by working as both an entrepreneur and computer network operations manager. Little did he know that this was just the beginning of a roller coaster ride that took him down a very dark path.

After his symptoms prompted him to visit his doctor, Ellenbogen was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. This is the term that doctors will often use when a problem is evident but, the severity of the cognitive decline is not clear. It’s more commonly used as a label for those aging individuals who are dealing with the normal cognitive decline that is a part of getting older.

Mild cognitive impairment will typically manifest itself through small but noticeable problems with memory, language, thinking, and judgment. 

Eventually, Ellenbogen’s diagnosis became slightly more significant and he was told that he was suffering from semantic dementia.  This is considered to be a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that results in the loss of semantic memory, or learned knowledge. One of the major symptoms of semantic dementia is the loss of words.

Finally, after a whirlwind of changing diagnoses, Ellenbogen received the news that during all this time he was actually suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. Despite the devastating nature of the disease and the changes it would mean to his life, he was actually relieved to get an accurate diagnosis and prepare for his future as an Alzheimer's patient.

After his diagnosis, Ellenbogen became an advocate for Alzheimer's

5.5 million Americans have Alzheimer's and it's expected to triple by 2050. When Ellenbogen became one of them, he decided to become a strong voice in the fight against the disease. For 10 years tried to educate the world about Alzheimer's, its effects and the stigma attached to it. Ever the go-getter, Ellenbogen got involved in clinical trials and researched the disease as much as possible. He shared his personal experience with the disease by writing a book called “From the Corner Office to Alzheimer’s”. 

He quickly became a very public face of Alzheimer's, spoke about it internationally and started a Facebook page to allow serious and candid discussions about the disease.

As part of his commitment to advocacy, Ellenbogen became an expert on the disease. This is what gave him the knowledge to question his own diagnosis. He says that while he had some symptoms that are part of the disease, a few other traits were not. He would often find himself acting impatient about things, and overreacting to minor incidents. In addition he could not understand why despite all the clinical trials he participated in, didn't see any benefits at all.

Ellenbogen began to wonder if what he had was indeed Alzheimer's and not some other form of dementia. Or, perhaps he was suffering from multiple forms of dementia that could easily have the same symptoms of Alzheimer's and lead to a misdiagnosis.