PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — Heartbreak. One of Maryland’s most promising politicians was devastated when his 52-year-old wife developed Alzheimer’s.

Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker shares their personal story with Vic Carter.

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One of the most powerful politicians in Maryland, Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker had been living with a painful secret.

“It’s just very, very hard,” Baker said.

Christa Beverly, his wife and political partner of 30 years, has been slowly losing her memory. She was just 48 and in the prime of her life when she learned the devastating diagnosis: Alzheimer’s disease–something most people don’t get until their 80s.

“I’ll go home and I’ll tell her about my day but I don’t get the answer back. I may get a nod. If I’m really lucky, I’ll get, `Okay, honey,'” Baker said.

Alzheimer’s is now crippling Christa’s sharp mind–and doctors say she’s not alone. They are beginning to see it strike people in their 40s and 50s. The most terrifying thing about this form of the disease is that it runs in families.

“It’s a strong genetic problem for which there is no cure or treatment,” said Dr. Majid Fotuhi, a neurologist.

Right now, five percent of all people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are under 65 years old.  That’s half a million people nationwide. When it affects younger people, the warning signs are often missed.

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“My oldest daughter called me and she was very upset,” Baker said. “She said, ‘Mommy’s lost and she’s crying.'”

Baker still remembers that painful day when he and his wife waited to hear what the doctor thought was wrong with her.

“He asked how old our kids are and she couldn’t tell him how old they were,” he said. “It was probably the hardest moment of my life.”

This kind of Alzheimer’s is doubly cruel because it attacks people who are typically active, working and even raising children. The simplest things quickly become impossible.

“Everything that you’ve planned is going to change. Everything that you know is going to change,” said Yolanda Locklear, Alzheimer’s Association.

Baker lives a high-powered life in the public eye and last summer, he knew he had to explain why his wife was missing so many events. His children convinced him to share her story.

“They, as a family, said `We not only want to do it with you but we want to tell what she has because one, we’re not ashamed of her and two, we want people to get help,'” he said.

The Alzheimer’s Association says the key treatments for Alzheimer’s Disease are education and support.

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Vic Carter