Assistant City Manager Jay Reinstein, 57, is leaving his post with the city of Fayetteville this week after five years on the job. He has been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, which affects people under 65. Early-onset Alzheimer’s, sometimes known as younger-onset Alzheimer’s, is a form of dementia. It means a person has a progressive and sometimes chronic brain condition that causes problems with thinking, behavior and memory.
Dementia itself is not a disease, but a syndrome; its symptoms are common to several brain diseases. Alzheimer’s gets worse over time. But medications sometimes slow that decline and help with symptoms such as behavior changes. More than 5 million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It’s what most people think of when they hear “dementia.”
“I will go out on family medical leave and use my accumulated sick time through April or May of 2019,” Reinstein said.
He is not yet eligible for retirement but has had time to educate himself about the benefits available to him through his employer. Disability insurance provides income for a worker who can no longer work due to illness or injury.
“Two months prior to leaving the city, I will apply for short-term disability through the NC State Retirement System,” Reinstein said. “Then, about 12 months after getting approved for short-term disability, I will apply for long-term disability until I can officially retire in 2022.”
“Tell me, doctor, how long do I have?” That, says Dr. Gregory A. Jicha, M.D., is the first question patients ask after receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. Jicha did a comprehensive study of 1,300 patients and found that the majority of people with early-onset Alzheimer’s have sporadic Alzheimer’s disease. It is the most common form of the illness and is not attributed to genetics. The average amount of time that people live with Alzheimer’s disease is approximately seven years, according to the Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders. Life expectancy varies from person to person.
Like many people with early-onset Alzheimer’s, receiving an accurate diagnosis is important. Reinstein said the first clue that there was a problem was a day several months ago when, on the way home from work, he drove two doors past his home before realizing it.
“It’s the little things,” he said, like “what dresser drawer the underwear is in.” Memory issues don’t occur all the time, he added, “but there is a lot of frustration.”
“I’m really a workaholic; it’s going to be difficult not being a leader.”
City Manager Doug Hewett said, “Jay is an asset to our organization. His care and concern for others is evident in everything he does. We will all miss our daily interactions with him, and we wish him all the best as he transitions from public service.”
Reinstein has been dealing with the realities of his illness long enough to have come to grips with it. He noted it’s his caretakers who will struggle over time. He has tried to make it easier for his family by saying he doesn’t want sympathy – he wants support. He looks forward to spending time with his family and doing volunteer work. He is already involved with the Alzheimer’s Association and has organized a team that raised $23,000 for research.
Filling Reinstein’s position won’t be easy for city. “I plan to fill the position temporarily with an internal interim appointment and likely won’t fill the position for several months,” Hewett said.
Photo: Jay Reinstein