"Researchers have observed that having a parent or sibling with Alzheimer's disease does increase one's risk somewhat above the general population's risk of developing the disease. Some people with such family histories, and some without such histories, wish to have a genetic test that will answer the question: 'Will I be next?'"
But the real question -- the question that requires deep soul searching -- is "Would I want to know?"
Brett Blumenthal, writing on sheerbalance.com, presents some pros and cons of receiving the answer to this question. Her "cons" are:
1. Many of the tests are not accurate -- plus, having a predisposition doesn't mean you're definitely going to get the condition.
2. Alzheimer's doesn't have a cure, so why know about it?
3. If you are predisposed to Alzheimer's you may end up obsessing about it.
The only "pro" she lists is prevention. As researchers have pointed out, however, "There is not yet scientific proof that any of their presumed risk factors, in fact, cause Alzheimer's. Only if they are shown to do so could the new analysis be considered a practical recipe for preventing the disease."
Here are 10 reasons I propose that you might be better off knowing:
1. You can draw up health care documents (if you haven't already done so). These include a living will, which stipulates your wishes for end-of-life care, and a durable power of attorney for healthcare, in which you state who may make healthcare decisions for you if you're not able.
2. You can develop financial documents such as a general power of attorney (to give another person the authority to handle your finances should you become too impaired) and a will.
3. You can conduct long-term financial planning, including how to pay for medical care you will need, as well as how to finance possible placement in an assisted living or long-term care facility.
4. You can do now the things you've always planned to do when you retire. Go ahead and make that trip to Europe or take up a hobby that has always fascinated you.
5. You can resign or retire from your job or take an early retirement, if you can afford it, in order to spend your time doing the things you love most.
6. You can try to reduce your hours, if you can't leave work entirely.
7. You can spend more time enjoying your family and friends..
8. If you develop symptoms of Alzheimer's at least you'll know why and not expect so much of yourself. Cut yourself some slack.
9. You can tell family and friends so they will understand and possibly avoid becoming frustrated or even angry about any difficult behaviors you may exhibit.
10. You can think long and hard about whether there is anything else you want to do now.
Getting tested for a genetic predisposition to Alzheimer's, especially if the disease runs in your family, is a very personal decision. However, knowing the results, particularly if they do show an increased risk, may help you make the right decisions about your life now.