Alzheimer’s disease affects more than 5 million Americans and at least 50 million people worldwide. The majority of Alzheimer’s instances occur in adults 65 and older. Still, a small number of people are diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s—being in their fifties, forties, or even thirties, when diagnosed.
Although rare (only 5% of all Alzheimer’s cases are early-onset), early-onset Alzheimer’s is a challenging and emotional diagnosis. Since healthcare professionals don’t usually expect Alzheimer’s in middle-aged adults, symptoms can often get misdiagnosed. Because of this, it’s important to understand what early-onset Alzheimer’s is and how it manifests.
Brickmont Assisted Living is highly-knowledgeable in the care and management of Alzheimer’s disease. Our memory care communities throughout Atlanta, including John’s Creek, Milton, Acworth, and Woodstock, are devoted to providing a fulfilling, engaging, and comfortable life to those living with Alzheimer’s and related dementias.
Why Do Some People Get Early-Onset Alzheimer’s?
Unfortunately, researchers aren’t fully aware of the exact causes of early-onset Alzheimer’s. Some believe that it occurs because of excessive protein damage in the brain but are unaware of why or how this develops.
Currently, the most validated claim is that those with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease are more at risk for early-onset.
It can be difficult to obtain a proper diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s for several reasons. First, since it is rare, healthcare providers don’t usually consider Alzheimer’s disease when dealing with a patient under 65. Second, the early warning signs of younger-onset Alzheimer’s tend to mirror the symptoms of other conditions like stress, chronic diseases, or simply aging. When examining symptoms, it’s important to remember that not every symptom mentioned is a guarantee of early-onset Alzheimer’s, and always talk with your healthcare provider about other symptoms and changes. With that being said, here are some signs that could indicate early-onset Alzheimer’s.
In The Early Stages:
Initial Memory Loss
As with regular Alzheimer’s disease, one of the first indications of early-onset Alzheimer’s is memory loss or simply becoming more forgetful than usual. For many, this includes:
- Not remembering important dates or events
- Forgetting newly learned information
- Repeatedly asking for the same information
Difficulty Problem Solving
Many people experience difficulty planning or problem-solving, especially when working with numbers, math, or finances. Another indication is struggling to complete familiar tasks, such as driving a familiar route or baking a favorite recipe.
Struggling to Communicate Effectively
It’s not uncommon for people to lose their communication skills with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Some may find it challenging to join a conversation, start a sentence and forget where they were going with it, or struggle to find the right word for something.
Confusion With Time or Place
People will often lose track of time, date, or place—including why they are at a particular place and how they got there. This disorientation can get worse as the disease progresses and ultimately become wandering.
Changes in Mood or Personality
Mood changes may cause some individuals to withdraw from work, social events, and other activities they used to enjoy. They may also begin to act more anxious, suspicious, or quick to anger.
In The Later Stages:
Severe Mood Swings
As the disease progresses, mood swings may become more extreme, even turning to anger and rage. Individuals may also begin to become suspicious of family members and caregivers.
Over time, people will become further confused about time and place, and even close family members.
Trouble with Basic Bodily Functions and Movement
Eventually, Alzheimer’s can make it difficult for individuals to speak, eat, or walk independently. When this happens, long-term care is typically the best option.
Understanding the Impact
Receiving a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease can be upsetting and have an impact on yourself and your entire family. Fortunately, this diagnosis is extremely rare. However, it’s important to understand the symptoms associated with early-onset Alzheimer’s as well as those associated with stress and aging. In addition, knowing your family history can be beneficial in determining your risk. As always, we encourage you to speak with your trusted healthcare provider about any symptoms or changes in health that could be of importance.
At Brickmont Assisted Living, we help those with Alzheimer’s find meaning and contentment every day. Our memory care communities offer exceptional care and services that contribute to each person’s overall wellness. To learn more about our memory care communities in John’s Creek, Milton, Acworth, and Woodstock, visit our website.