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After Alzheimer’s Diagnosis at 49, Retired Jones College Teacher Advocates For Testing and Treatment

Around Christmastime in December 2022, Missie Meeks and her family noticed she had been forgetful and not acting like herself for months. She was having trouble thinking and reasoning, and doing math was especially challenging.

“Luckily for me, I had enough people who cared about me to raise a red flag and say, ‘Something’s up with Missie, and this is not her normal behavior pattern or thinking,’” she told the Mississippi Free Press on June 21.

She first visited Hattiesburg, Miss., neurologist Dr. Wendell Helveston in February 2023; he conducted various tests on her over the next few months until he landed on an early onset Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis in July 2023. Meeks turned 50 a few days later.

“When I got Alzheimer’s, I was a mess because I was nowhere near the old Missie that I was,” she said.

Meeks was an English instructor at Jones College in Ellisville, Miss., at the time and had planned to teach for years longer before retiring, but her Alzheimer’s diagnosis forced her to retire early in 2023.

Signs And Symptoms

Missie Meeks said some of her first symptoms were that thinking and problem-solving became difficult, even though she is organized and orderly. 

She realized she had a serious problem when she forgot how to crank her car to drive home from the grocery store one day. Her car was a push-to-start, so Meeks needed to push down on the brake while pressing the start button, but she could not remember what to do for about 30 minutes.

“That was when I realized that the concern from my friends and my family was genuine and that it was more to it than just nerves,” she said.

Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that affects both memory and behavior. Her neurologist, Dr. Wendell Helveston at Hattiesburg Clinic, said the most common symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease are forgetfulness, like forgetting someone’s name or what they said, and getting lost, like while driving.

He said Alzheimer’s is a multi-year disease that can start subtly, so it is important for a

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