When you think of Alzheimer’s disease, you may immediately associate it with an older person, but that is not always the case. Up to 5% of people diagnosed with Alzheimer's are under age 65—usually in their 40s or 50s—and are considered to have Early-Onset Alzheimer’s disease. While some memory loss or being forgetful is normal; Alzheimer’s is not.
Alzheimer's disease is a progressive disease that destroys memory and other important mental functions. Usually, the terms Alzheimer’s and Dementia are used interchangeably and even though they are related, they are not the same. Dementia is a general term for the loss of memory or other mental abilities that affect daily life. Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of Dementia, with over 70 percent of all Dementia cases occurring as a result of Alzheimer’s.
Early-Onset Alzheimer’s is strongly linked to genetics, making family history an important part of an early diagnosis. A blood test can determine whether someone is at a higher risk for familial Alzheimer's, but will not indicate whether they have or may get the disease.
Symptoms of Early-Onset Alzheimer's are no different than symptoms of more traditional Alzheimer’s. But because the condition is so rare in adults under 65, the signs may not be recognized as quickly. And because Early-Onset Alzheimer's disease is so uncommon, diagnosis may also require more in-depth testing than a senior citizen might require.
Forgetting where you put the keys or the name of a new acquaintance is normal in middle-age; it does not mean Early-Onset Alzheimer’s. Here are some symptoms that should not be ignored:
Memory loss that disrupts daily life
Forget something recently learned, significant dates/events; repeatedly ask for the same information
Everyday tasks become a struggle
Trouble driving to a familiar location or managing your household budget
Disoriented with time and place
Lose track of the passage of time; forget where you are/how you got there; difficulty comprehending something that is not happening at that exact moment
Sudden problems with conversation or words
You may repeat yourself or struggle with vocabulary
Put things in unusual places; unable to retrace steps; accuse others of stealing
Changes in behavior
Become socially withdrawn, confused, suspicious, depressed, fearful or anxious or easily upset
If you are noticing these symptoms in yourself or a loved one, don’t ignore them. Contact your doctor for an evaluation and then call Mom's Care Plan. An early diagnosis can mean living an independent life for a longer period of time. There are resources, support and information available. Knowing what to expect and how to prepare can mean the world of difference! Mom's Care Plan is particularly passionate about helping couples and families living with Early-Onset Alzheimer's. As a Free resource to families and health care professionals we will help educate and point you in the right direction.