When most people hear the words Alzheimer’s disease, a mental picture of an older person comes to mind. While it is true that advanced age usually plays a role in a person’s risk of Alzheimer’s, there are exceptions. A person under the age of 65 who is diagnosed with the disease is typically considered to have early-onset dementia.
While the odds of developing the disease are low (only 5 to 6 percent of the 6 million cases of Alzheimer’s disease in this country are people under the age of 65) it’s still important to understand the risk. This is especially true if a parent or grandparent had early-onset Alzheimer’s.
What Is Early-Onset Alzheimer’s?
When the days are busy, it’s easy to misplace things or forget to run an errand from time to time. It’s one reason adults in their 40s or 50s might originally miss the most common early symptom of the disease in themselves or a loved one: forgetfulness.
Added to that is the fact that stress and some medical conditions can mimic Alzheimer’s disease. Age can also play a role in not receiving a timely diagnosis. Even if a middle-aged adult faithfully sees their primary care physician every year, the doctor might not look for signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s assuming their patient is too young.
If you are concerned that your forgetfulness or that of a loved one is more than just the demands of a busy life, here’s one quick way to understand the difference. When you or your family member temporarily forgets someone’s name or an important appointment, is it remembered later? If so, it’s probably nothing to worry about. If not, it should be discussed with the doctor. Memory loss that disrupts daily life may be a red flag for dementia or another health condition.
Signs of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
If you are concerned about the changes you see in yourself or a loved one, some of the warning signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease beyond memory loss can include:
- Having difficulty getting organized and ready for work or other daily plans
- Being unable or struggling to complete multi-step tasks, such as writing out checks or preparing a meal
- Declining judgment skills, especially related to financial management
- Experiencing a change in disposition or personality, such as becoming quick to anger or easily tearful
- Becoming lost in familiar places or on the way to and from known destinations
- Using words incorrectly or laboring to find the right word
- Asking the same questions repeatedly but not being aware of it
- Developing vision problems, especially a loss of depth perception
These are all red flags that should be shared with a physician for further follow up and testing. Keep in mind that the symptoms outlined above may be indicators of a treatable condition, such as an infection, thyroid disease, or even a vitamin deficiency.
A primary care physician will likely conduct a physical examination to determine if the problem is Alzheimer’s and to rule out conditions that can mimic most types of dementia. In some cases, these medical issues can be reversed with early intervention. That’s why it’s important to schedule a doctor’s appointment promptly.
A Reputation for Excellence in Dementia Care at Heritage
If the need for specialized dementia care in Michigan does arise, we encourage you to consider Heritage Senior Communities. Our person-centered approach to care helps adults with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia live their best quality of life. Call the Heritage community nearest you to learn more!