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Pr. George's executive's wife has early-onset Alzheimer's

Wednesday - 8/1/2012, 4:50pm  ET

Alzheimer's expert discusses influence on family

WTOP's Kate Ryan

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UPPER MARLBORO, Md. - Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker says his wife, Christa, is suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's disease.

Baker made the announcement in a letter released Wednesday morning to the media and supporters.

The county executive says his wife's illness won't affect his ability to serve. He says his wife will continue in her ceremonial responsibilities as the county's first lady, but there will be times when she needs to be in more familiar surroundings.

Christa Baker is 52 and has been married to Rushern Baker for 26 years. The county executive is 53. They have three children.

Christa Baker has had a form of dementia for two years.

Baker says he's sharing the news to send a message that "mental health disease is not the end, nor do you need to be embarrassed or ashamed."

Susan Kudla Finn, president and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association National Capital Area chapter, says someone develops Alzheimer's every 68 seconds in the United States.

Finn has personal experience with the disease, she lost her father to it last year.

She calls Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker "courageous" for his decision to make his wife's illness public.

Fast facts:

  • 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer's disease
  • By 2050, 16 million Americans will have Alzheimer's
  • Every 68 seconds, someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer's

WTOP's Kate Ryan and the Associated Press contributed to this report. Follow WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)