Sister Pact: ‘When You Develop Alzheimer’s, I’ll Take Care of You’

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<p>(Hart Van Denburg/CPR News)</p>
<p class="normal">Jessica, at left, and Robin McIntyre. </p>

Sisters Robin and Jessica McIntyre have an understanding: When Robin, 33, develops Alzheimer's as she's almost certain to do, Jessica, 36, will take care of her. Their family carries a genetic mutation for early onset Alzheimer's and have been the subject of studies on the disease for years.

The sisters' grandfather was diagnosed in his late 40's. Their mother developed Alzheimer's at the age of 50. Blood tests revealed Robin, who lives in Wyoming, has the mutation but Jessica, who lives in Denver doesn't. The two have a younger sister, Chelsey, who also doesn't have the mutation.

So far Robin is not experiencing any symptoms of the disease. She's involved in a drug trial funded by the Alzheimer's Association. The hope is to find a drug that can be taken to stop the disease before a person is symptomatic. According to the Azheimer's Association of Colorado, about 67,000 people in the state have the disease.

Conversation Highlights With Robin and Jessica McIntyre

On Their Family’s First Documented Case Of Early Onset Alzheimer’s

Jessica: “It was our grandfather, our mother’s father, is when we started. He received his diagnosis kinda well before Alzheimer’s was actually a big talked about thing. He was in his early 40s, early to mid-40s, and he got diagnosed at the VA hospital. Upon that diagnosis, they told my grandmother there was nothing they could do and just take him home.”

On What It’s Like Knowing One Has The Mutation While The Other Does Not

Jessica: “Guilt was by far, the very first feeling that I experienced. I also knew that that was going happen for my Aunt Carla, who was the only person of her siblings that did not have that. Guilt was her main feeling as well. Once you get past that, I kind of knew, and told Robin, when she found out her diagnosis, that the reason that she got it is because ‘she can handle it’ and this is the way it’s going to work out for us. She can handle it and I can take care of her.”

Robin: “The doctors tell me that the reason I got the genetic mutation is simply because of bad luck. It’s just like the flip of a coin. At first, I don’t think that was the first mindset I had. However, after Jessica telling me that on the first day, I do believe that I got it because I can handle it. I want to use my knowledge as power to help other people living in fear of potential early onset Alzheimer’s.”