The Effects Of Being Diagnosed At A Young Age
The personal and social consequences of young onset dementia can be much different than those experienced by people diagnosed with dementia later in life.
People living with young onset dementia are often still working at the time of diagnosis, are physically fit, and may have dependent children or parents at home. They may have major financial commitments, like a mortgage or student loan, that they are looking to pay off.
The diagnosis of dementia, and the changes it will bring, can only increase the stress of handling these responsibilities. With dementia now in the mix, it’s natural for a younger person just diagnosed with dementia to think, “What’s next!?” and worry about how they can meet handling their responsibilities.
What Is Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimers disease is the most common form of dementia, affecting up to 70% of all people with dementia. It was first recorded in 1907 by Dr Alois Alzheimer. Dr Alzheimer reported the case of Auguste Deter, a middle-aged woman with dementia and specific changes in her brain. For the next 60 years Alzheimers disease was considered a rare condition that affected people under the age of 65. It was not until the 1970s that Dr Robert Katzman declared that “senile dementia” and Alzheimers disease were the same condition and that neither were a normal part of aging.
Alzheimers disease can be either sporadic or familial.
Sporadic Alzheimer’s disease can affect adults at any age, but usually occurs after age 65 and is the most common form of Alzheimer’s disease.
Familial Alzheimers disease is a very rare genetic condition, caused by a mutation in one of several genes. The presence of mutated genes means that the person will eventually develop Alzheimer’s disease, usually in their 40’s or 50’s.
The Healthy Human Brain
Behind the ears and temples are the temporal lobes of the brain. These regions process speech and working memory, and also higher emotions such as empathy, morality and regret. Beneath the forebrain are the more primitive brain regions such as the limbic system. The limbic system is a structure that is common to all mammals and processes our desires and many emotions. Also in the limbic system is the hippocampus a region that is vital for forming new memories.
Trouble With The Passage Of Time
Typically, time isn’t a real problem. Most people are able to tell the difference between a few minutes and a few hours. But one early sign of Alzheimer’s is when someone’s perception of time is affected.
“Five minutes can seem like five hours for someone with ,” Lisa P. Gwyther, MSW, LCSW, an associate professor at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University, told CBS News. “So a husband may think his wife has been gone for hours or even weeks, even if it’s just been a few minutes, or he might tell his grandchild that he hasn’t seen him in five years, even though he just saw him yesterday.”
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Problems With Vision And Spatial Awareness
Alzheimers disease can sometimes cause vision problems, making it difficult for people to judge distances between objects. The person may find it hard to distinguish contrast and colors or judge speed or distance.
These vision problems combined can affect the persons ability to drive.
Normal aging also affects eyesight, so it is essential to have regular checkups with an eye doctor.
You’ve Been Experiencing Memory Changes
If you’re developing dementia, one of the first symptoms you might experience is a change in your ability to remember things, which might include forgetting what you just got up to do, or losing your train of thought mid-sentence.
“Signs of early-onset dementia include short-term memory changes, often described as an ‘inability to keep a thought in your head,'”Dr. Faisal Tawwab, MD, tells Bustle. So, if your words escape you, or you’ve suddenly become super forgetful, take note.
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Difficulties Getting A Diagnosis
A 2008 Alzheimers Society report quotes one GP saying to a female patient,
You cant have dementia, youre too young.
This quote reveals that doctors and other professionals quite often may not even consider that a person under 65 could have dementia they may be more likely to think there is nothing wrong or that the person is depressed. In many areas, it may be unclear which medical consultant is responsible for the assessment and diagnosis of young onset dementia should it be a psychiatrist working with adults with mental health problems, or should it be an old age psychiatrist who specialises in working with older adults? GPs may not know this information. For all these reasons, obtaining a diagnosis is often a particularly drawn-out and distressing process for younger people.
When To See A Doctor
Forgetfulness and memory problems dont automatically point to dementia. These are normal parts of aging and can also occur due to other factors, such as fatigue. Still, you shouldnt ignore the symptoms. If you or someone you know is experiencing a number of dementia symptoms that arent improving, talk with a doctor.
They can refer you to a neurologist who can examine you or your loved ones physical and mental health and determine whether the symptoms result from dementia or another cognitive problem. The doctor may order:
- a complete series of memory and mental tests
- a neurological exam
- brain imaging tests
If youre concerned about your forgetfulness and dont already have a neurologist, you can view doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.
Dementia is more common in people over the age of 65, but it can also affect younger people. Early onset of the disease can begin when people are in their 30s, 40s, or 50s. With treatment and early diagnosis, you can slow the progression of the disease and maintain mental function. The treatments may include medications, cognitive training, and therapy.
Possible causes of dementia include:
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Struggling To Adapt To Change
For someone in the early stages of dementia, the experience can cause fear. Suddenly, they cant remember people they know or follow what others are saying. They cant remember why they went to the store, and they get lost on the way home.
Because of this, they might crave routine and be afraid to try new experiences. Difficulty adapting to change is also a typical symptom of early dementia.
What Are The Causes Of Young
The causes of young-onset dementia are similar to the diseases that usually cause dementia in older people. However, some causes, such as frontotemporal dementia , are more common in younger people. Dementia in younger people often has different symptoms, even when its caused by the same diseases as in older people.There is more information about some common causes of dementia, and how they can affect younger people, below.
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Symptoms Specific To Vascular Dementia
Vascular dementia is the second most common cause of dementia, after Alzheimer’s. Some people have both vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, often called “mixed dementia”.
Symptoms of vascular dementia are similar to Alzheimer’s disease, although memory loss may not be as obvious in the early stages.
Symptoms can sometimes develop suddenly and quickly get worse, but they can also develop gradually over many months or years.
Specific symptoms can include:
- stroke-like symptoms: including muscle weakness or temporary paralysis on one side of the body
- movement problems difficulty walking or a change in the way a person walks
- thinking problems having difficulty with attention, planning and reasoning
- mood changes depression and a tendency to become more emotional
Read more about vascular dementia.
Forgetfulness And Memory Loss
While forgetting where you placed your car keys may commonly occur with anyone at any age, and perhaps a bit more as you age, persistent forgetfulness or lapses in memory is typically a sign that something is wrong. For people with early onset Alzheimers, they may begin noticing abnormal and chronic lapses in memory as early as their 30s or 40s.
If youre missing where you are and how you got there, struggling to find the right words when conversing or consistently forgetting what your partner asked you to do, yet you feel as if youre too young to be experiencing these things, you may be developing some signs of early memory decline.
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Conditions With Symptoms Similar To Dementia
Remember that many conditions have symptoms similar to dementia, so it is important not to assume that someone has dementia just because some of the above symptoms are present. Strokes, depression, excessive long-term alcohol consumption, infections, hormonal disorders, nutritional deficiencies and brain tumours can all cause dementia-like symptoms. Many of these conditions can be treated.
Putting Things In Strange Places
Everyone forgets where they put their keys every once in a while, and sometimes you’re so tired that you might accidentally put the milk in the cupboard. That’s totally normal! For those with Alzheimer’s, though, misplacing possessions and putting them in places that don’t make sense happens with startling frequency, according to the Mayo Clinic. And for more age-related health issues to be aware of, check out these 40 Things Doctors Say Affect Your Health After 40.
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Early Symptoms Of Dementia
Dementia is a collection of symptoms that can occur due to a variety of possible diseases. Dementia symptoms include impairments in thought, communication, and memory.
If you or your loved one is experiencing memory problems, dont immediately conclude that its dementia. A person needs to have at least two types of impairment that significantly interfere with everyday life to receive a dementia diagnosis.
In addition to difficulty remembering, the person may also experience impairments in:
Signs Of Mild Alzheimers Disease
In mild Alzheimers disease, a person may seem to be healthy but has more and more trouble making sense of the world around him or her. The realization that something is wrong often comes gradually to the person and his or her family. Problems can include:
- Memory loss
- Poor judgment leading to bad decisions
- Loss of spontaneity and sense of initiative
- Taking longer to complete normal daily tasks
- Repeating questions
- Increased sleeping
- Loss of bowel and bladder control
A common cause of death for people with Alzheimers disease is aspiration pneumonia. This type of pneumonia develops when a person cannot swallow properly and takes food or liquids into the lungs instead of air.
There is currently no cure for Alzheimers, though there are medicines that can treat the symptoms of the disease.
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Problem Solving Or Planning Difficulties
The person may find that they have difficulty following directions, solving problems, and focusing. For example, they may find it difficult to:
- follow a recipe
- follow directions on a product
- keeping track of monthly bills or expenses
Some people often have problems like these, but if they start to happen when they did not happen before, it could indicate early onset Alzheimers disease.
Becoming Totally Uninterested In Everything
One of the most common changes those with Alzheimer’s go through is no longer being interested in things they used to loveor no longer being interested in anything, for that matter. A 2001 study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society revealed that, while disinterest is a frequent symptom among those with Alzheimer’s, it’s also one of the most under-recognized signs. Researchers at the University of Exeter conducted a study in 2019, and they found that nearly half of all people with dementia experience apathy.
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Symptoms Of Mild Cognitive Impairment
Some people have a condition called mild cognitive impairment, or MCI. It can be an early sign of Alzheimers. But, not everyone with MCI will develop Alzheimers disease. People with MCI can still take care of themselves and do their normal activities. MCI memory problems may include:
- Losing things often
- Forgetting to go to events or appointments
- Having more trouble coming up with words than other people the same age
Learn more about Alzheimer’s disease from MedlinePlus.
What Is The Treatment For Dementia
Treatment options for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia are limited. While there are medications available to try to improve the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, the effect of these medications is limited. Physical exercise has been shown to be of some benefit in helping to maintain cognition. Staying engaged and participating in social events may also be of some help. To date, no treatment which can reverse the process of Alzheimer’s disease has been identified.
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When To Visit The Doctor For Memory Loss
If you, a family member, or friend has problems remembering recent events or thinking clearly, talk with a doctor. He or she may suggest a thorough checkup to see what might be causing the symptoms. You may also wish to talk with your doctor about opportunities to participate in research on cognitive health and aging.
At your doctor visit, he or she can perform tests and assessments, which may include a brain scan, to help determine the source of memory problems. Your doctor may also recommend you see a neurologist, a doctor who specializes in treating diseases of the brain and nervous system.
Memory and other thinking problems have many possible causes, including depression, an infection, or medication side effects. Sometimes, the problem can be treated, and cognition improves. Other times, the problem is a brain disorder, such as Alzheimer’s disease, which cannot be reversed.
Finding the cause of the problems is important for determining the best course of action. Once you know the cause, you can make the right treatment plan. People with memory problems should make a follow-up appointment to check their memory every six to 12 months. They can ask a family member, friend, or the doctor’s office to remind them if they’re worried they’ll forget.
Stage : Mild Cognitive Impairment
Clear cognitive problems begin to manifest in stage 3. A few signs of stage 3 dementia include:
- Getting lost easily
- Noticeably poor performance at work
- Forgetting the names of family members and close friends
- Difficulty retaining information read in a book or passage
- Losing or misplacing important objects
- Difficulty concentrating
Patients often start to experience mild to moderate anxiety as these symptoms increasingly interfere with day to day life. Patients who may be in this stage of dementia are encouraged to have a clinical interview with a clinician for proper diagnosis.
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Brain Changes Detected 20 Years Before Alzheimers Symptoms
Scientists increasingly recognize Alzheimers as a disease process that begins years before symptoms of dementia become evident. Now, new research has found changes in the brain and body up to 20 years before Alzheimers symptoms arise.
The research, published in the journal Lancet Neurology, looked at a large extended South American family in Colombia that carried a gene for the early-onset form of Alzheimers, which typically arises before age 60. About 30 percent of the 5,000 family members carry the defective gene. Inheriting the gene, called presenelin 1, guarantees that youll get Alzheimers at a relative young age.
Among the relatives, members who had the gene typically began to develop serious memory problems in their mid-40s, with full-flown Alzheimers by their early 50s. The scientists discovered that many young people in the family, some as young as 18, had changes in their brain, blood and nervous system that presaged the onset of Alzheimers decades later.
The changes are the earliest signs yet detected of Alzheimers disease. Although it was a study of early-onset disease, scientists have noted related changes in those with the far more common late-onset form of Alzheimers.
Using brain scans and tests of the spinal fluid and blood, the researchers examined dozens of young people, ages 18 to 26, in the family. Only some carried the Alzheimers gene, and none had any memory problems or other symptoms.
Mood Or Personality Changes
Someone with Alzheimers disease may start to experience a low mood. They may feel irritable, confused, anxious, or depressed. They may also lose interest in things they used to enjoy.
They may become frustrated with their symptoms or feel unable to understand the changes taking place. This may present as aggression or irritability toward others.
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Frequently Misplacing Items And Not Being Able To Retrace Steps
Most people will lose items at some time, but they are usually able to locate them again by searching in logical locations and retracing their steps.
However, someone with Alzheimers disease may forget where they placed an item, especially if they put it in an unusual place. They may also be unable to retrace their steps to find the missing item. This can be distressing and may cause the person to believe that someone is stealing from them.
Annual Report To Parliament On Canada’s Dementia Strategy
Each year the federal Minister of Health prepares a report to Parliament on the national dementia strategy.
The 2020 Report to Parliament shares a Canada-wide overview of some of the many dementia-related efforts underway across the country. This report highlights how many different organizations, including the federal government, are supporting the strategy’s national objectives and reflects the variety of those efforts.
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What Are The Early And Later Signs And Symptoms Of Dementia
Early signs of dementia may include:
- Simple forgetfulness
- Problems performing tasks or activities that were previously done without effort.
- Difficulty with learning new material is frequently one of the earliest signs of dementia.
Many patients with early Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia are unaware that they have any problem. As the disease progresses, behavioral changes can become evident.
- Patients have difficulty performing basic tasks, such as getting dressed or using the bathroom.
- Some patients begin to forget pieces of information about themselves, including their address or telephone number, or even their date of birth.
- They may have difficulty understanding what is occurring around them.
- Some patients have problems remembering to eat and may develop pronounced weight loss.
- In the late stages of dementia, patients often cannot recognize family members and their ability to communicate effectively is markedly impaired.
- They are no longer able to effectively care for themselves and require assistance for all activities of daily living.
- Over time, patients can forget how to walk or even how to sit up.
The stages of dementia are loosely grouped into mild, moderate, and severe categories by some doctors. However, there is another system of staging for dementia.