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How Early Can You Have Dementia

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Why Getting an Early Diagnosis for Dementia Can Make All the Difference

Although AD isnt an expected part of advancing age, youre at increased risk as you get older. More than 32 percent of people over age 85 have AD.

You may also have an increased risk of developing AD if a parent, sibling, or child has the disease. If more than one family member has AD, your risk increases.

A showed that African Americans, Native Americans, and Native Alaskans are at higher risk for developing early onset AD compared to white people.

Prevalence of early onset AD

Early onset AD affects approximately

The exact cause of early onset AD hasnt been fully determined. Many researchers believe that this disease develops as the result of multiple factors rather than one specific cause.

Researchers have discovered rare genes that may directly cause or contribute to AD. These deterministic genes are:

  • amyloid precursor protein on chromosome 21
  • presenilin-1 on chromosome 14
  • presenilin-2 on chromosome 1

These genes may be carried from one generation to the next within a family. Carrying these genes can result in adults younger than age 65 developing symptoms much earlier than expected.

Mutations in these genes account for only 5 to 10 percent of all Alzheimers cases but a majority of early onset AD cases.

Apolipoprotein E is another gene associated with AD. Its more commonly a factor in people who develop AD after age 65.

Lifestyle changes that help reduce risk include:

  • regular physical activity

Understanding Early Onset Dementia

Some chapters of the Alzheimer’s Association are beginning to use the name younger-onset dementia instead of early-onset dementia. Members of the association state there can be confusion for families hearing the diagnosis of early-onset dementia. âEarly onset” does not refer to the stage of the disease it refers to the age at which a person is diagnosed with dementia.

Common Early Symptoms Of Dementia

Different types of dementia can affect people differently, and everyone will experience symptoms in their own way.

However, there are some common early symptoms that may appear some time before a diagnosis of dementia. These include:

  • memory loss
  • difficulty concentrating
  • finding it hard to carry out familiar daily tasks, such as getting confused over the correct change when shopping
  • struggling to follow a conversation or find the right word
  • being confused about time and place
  • mood changes

These symptoms are often mild and may get worse only very gradually. It’s often termed “mild cognitive impairment” as the symptoms are not severe enough to be diagnosed as dementia.

You might not notice these symptoms if you have them, and family and friends may not notice or take them seriously for some time. In some people, these symptoms will remain the same and not worsen. But some people with MCI will go on to develop dementia.

Dementia is not a natural part of ageing. This is why it’s important to talk to a GP sooner rather than later if you’re worried about memory problems or other symptoms.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Dementia

Early symptoms of dementia include:

  • Forgetting recent events or information.
  • Repeating comments or questions over a very short period.
  • Misplacing commonly used items or placing them in unusual spots.
  • Not knowing the season, year or month.
  • Having difficulty coming up with the right words.
  • Experiencing a change in mood, behavior or interests.

Signs that dementia is getting worse include:

  • Your ability to remember and make decisions further declines.
  • Talking and finding the right words becomes more difficult.
  • Daily complex tasks, such as brushing your teeth, making a cup of coffee, working a TV remote, cooking and paying bills become more challenging.
  • Lessening of rational thinking and behavior and your ability to problem-solve.
  • Sleeping pattern changes.
  • Increases or worsening of anxiety, frustration, confusion, agitation, suspiciousness, sadness and/or depression.
  • Needing more help with activities of daily living, such as grooming, toileting, bathing and eating.
  • Experiencing hallucinations .

These symptoms are general symptoms of dementia. Each person diagnosed with dementia has different symptoms, depending on what area of their brain is damaged. Additional symptoms and/or unique symptoms occur with specific types of dementia.

What Medications Are Available To Manage Dementia

The First Stages of Dementia and Alzheimerâs Can Start 30 Years Before ...

Drugs approved for the most common form of dementia, Alzheimers disease, include:

Healthcare providers use these drugs to treat people with some of the other forms of dementia.

Cholinesterase inhibitors and the NMDA receptor antagonist affect different chemical processes in your brain. Both drug classes have been shown to provide some benefit in improving or stabilizing memory function in some people with dementia.

Cholinesterase inhibitors manage the chemicals in your brain that allow messages to be sent between brain cells, which is needed for proper brain function. Memantine works similarly to cholinesterase inhibitors except it works on a different chemical messenger and helps the nerve cells survive longer.

Aducanumab targets amyloid proteins, which build up into the plaques seen in the brains of people with Alzheimers disease.

Although none of these drugs appear to stop the progression of the underlying disease, they may slow it down.

If other medical conditions are causing dementia or co-exist with dementia, healthcare providers prescribe the appropriate drugs used to treat those specific conditions. These other conditions include sleeping problems, depression, hallucinations and agitation.

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When Dementia Strikes At An Early Age

Dementia in a person in their 30s, 40s or 50s poses special challenges, starting with getting a diagnosis.

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Many people arent overly concerned when an octogenarian occasionally forgets the best route to a favorite store, cant remember a friends name or dents the car while trying to parallel park on a crowded city street. Even healthy brains work less efficiently with age, and memory, sensory perceptions and physical abilities become less reliable.

But what if the person is not in their 80s but in their 30s, 40s or 50s and forgets the way home from their own street corner? Thats far more concerning. While most of the 5.3 million Americans who are living with Alzheimers disease or other forms of dementia are over 65, some 200,000 are younger than 65 and develop serious memory and thinking problems far earlier in life than expected.

Young-onset dementia is a particularly disheartening diagnosis because it affects individuals in the prime years, Dr. David S. Knopman, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., wrote in a . Many of the afflicted are in their 40s and 50s, midcareer, hardly ready to retire and perhaps still raising a family.

Current Practice In Diagnosing Dementia

The remainder of this information will provide an overview of the diagnosis process and a guide to what happens after diagnosis.

It is important to remember that there is no definitive test for diagnosing Alzheimers disease or any of the other common causes of dementia. Findings from a variety of sources and tests must be pooled before a diagnosis can be made, and the process can be complex and time consuming. Even then, uncertainty may still remain, and the diagnosis is often conveyed as possible or probable. Despite this uncertainty, a diagnosis is accurate around 90% of the time.

People with significant memory loss without other symptoms of dementia, such as behaviour or personality changes, may be classified as having a Mild Cognitive Impairment . MCI is a relatively new concept and more research is needed to understand the relation between MCI and later development of dementia. However, MCI does not necessarily lead to dementia and regular monitoring of memory and thinking skills is recommended in individuals with this diagnosis.

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Future Directions In Diagnosis Research

Considerable research effort is being put into the development of better tools for accurate and early diagnosis. Research continues to provide new insights that in the future may promote early detection and improved diagnosis of dementia, including:

  • Better dementia assessment tests that are suitable for people from diverse educational, social, linguistic and cultural backgrounds.
  • New computerised cognitive assessment tests which can improve the delivery of the test and simplify responses.
  • Improved screening tools to allow dementia to be more effectively identified and diagnosed by GPs.
  • The development of blood and spinal fluid tests to measure Alzheimers related protein levels and determine the risk of Alzheimers disease.
  • The use of sophisticated brain imaging techniques and newly developed dyes to directly view abnormal Alzheimers protein deposits in the brain, yielding specific tests for Alzheimers disease.

Whats The Difference Between Dementia And Alzheimers Disease

early onset dementia

Dementia is a description of the state of a persons mental function and not a specific disease. Dementia is an umbrella category describing mental decline thats severe enough to interfere with daily living.

There are many underlying causes of dementia, including Alzheimers disease and Parkinsons disease. Alzheimers disease is the most common underlying cause of dementia.

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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.

Who Diagnoses Dementia

The General Practitioner is usually the first contact when concerns about thinking or memory arise. The GP will take a medical history and may carry out a brief test of memory and concentration. If the GP is concerned about the possibility of dementia, the person may be referred to a specialist or specialist memory centre. It is important to remember that the choice of doctor is up to you so if after your visit you are still concerned and wish a referral to a specialist, you may wish to ask for a second opinion.

Specialists such as neurologists, geriatricians, psychogeriatricians, psychiatrists, and neuropsychologists have a more detailed knowledge of the memory and behaviour changes associated with dementia and may perform or arrange in-depth assessments, brain scans and blood tests. In Australia, a specialist must confirm the diagnosis of Alzheimers disease in order for you to be eligible for subsidised Alzheimers medications.

Aged Care Assessment Teams are multidisciplinary teams often comprised of social workers, occupational therapists, as well as nurses and doctors. ACATs are usually based in hospitals or regional community health centres. ACATs assess the health needs of ageing individuals, put the individual in contact with relevant services, make recommendations about the level of care required and approve eligibility for certain services.

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How Common Is Dementia

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 5 million U.S. adults age 65 or older have Alzheimers and related dementia. By 2060, the CDC projects that about 14 million people will have dementia, which is about 3.3% of the population.

Alzheimers disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the fifth leading cause of death in Americans age 65 and older.

Where To Live With Dementia

12 Early Dementia Signs and Symptoms that Shouldnât be Ignored

Eventually, caregiving for someone with dementia wont be appropriate anymore. The needs of a person with progressive dementia become overwhelming, and moving into a full-time residence with trained staff becomes necessary. You should plan for this well before it becomes necessary, by visiting communities and asking the right questions.

Depending on your loved ones stage of illness, different living options are available:

Assisted Living in Early StagesAssisted living residences combine room and board with medical and personal care, and are often sufficient for someone in the early stages of Alzheimers disease or related dementia. Full-time supervision means residents are safe, with living units like private studios or apartments so someone with mild dementia can still feel a sense of independence.

Services offered in assisted living include meals, help with activities of daily living , social activities, and transportation to and from doctors appointments. Before moving in, the residence will assess your loved one to make sure its a good fit.

Memory care residences have physical designs that are appropriate for people with dementia. Someone with Alzheimers, for instance, may become upset when encountering a wall, so memory care buildings have circular hallways. Because people with dementia are prone to wander, memory care residences have increased security and supervision, and special locks on doors.

Did You Know?

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What Are The Early Signs Of Dementia

Symptoms of dementia are caused by changes in the brain changes that can begin years before early dementia signs present themselves. There are three general stages for Alzheimer’s mild , moderate , and severe . The speed at which a patient moves through these stages varies, but progression of the symptoms themselves follows a fairly standardized path.

The most common early dementia symptoms are forgetfulness and short-term memory loss. Patients may forget where they left something or have trouble recalling the details of a conversation, but long-term memory and the remembering of important dates or events is typically unaffected in early stages of dementia.

As the symptoms of Alzheimer’s progress, patients become increasingly confused about simple facts such as time or place and may have difficulty concentrating they can still complete regular tasks, but concentrating may take longer than usual.

Over time, symptoms of dementia may include frequently misplacing objects and an increased difficulty completing daily tasks. Patients are more likely to lose things and may have trouble retracing their steps to find them. This sometimes progresses to feelings of paranoia or accusations of theft when the patient cannot find something they unknowingly misplaced. Patients may also start to have trouble with daily tasks such as driving, cooking, or engaging in hobbies. Changes in vision and depth perception may also lead to increased clumsiness, falls, and other accidents.

What Is Young Onset Dementia

Dementia is a degeneration of the brain that causes a progressive decline in peoples ability to think, reason, communicate and remember. Their personality, behaviour and mood can also be affected. Everyones experience of dementia is unique and the progression of the condition varies. Some symptoms are more likely to occur with certain types of dementia.

Dementia is described as young onset when symptoms develop before the age of 65, usually between 30 to 65 years of age. It is also referred to as early onset or working age dementia, but these terms can cause confusion. Early onset can be interpreted as the early stages of dementia and working age is now less defined as retirement age is more flexible.

As dementia is frequently, and wrongly, thought of as a condition that is just associated with old age, the early symptoms of young onset dementia are not always recognised and may be attributed to other causes including depression, stress, menopause, physical health problems and relationship issues. This can lead to a significant delay in getting an accurate diagnosis and access to appropriate support. This can have a negative impact on not just the person with dementias life but also the whole family.

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Knowing The Stages Of Dementia Helps You Plan

Even if the stages arent exact and symptoms can still be unpredictable, being able to plan ahead is essential.

The truth is that Alzheimers and dementia care is expensive and time-consuming. Being financially prepared for increasing care needs is a necessity.

On an emotional level, having an idea of what symptoms to expect helps you find ways to cope with challenging behaviors.

It also gives you a chance to mentally prepare yourself for the inevitable changes in your older adult.

Putting Things In The Wrong Place

Easy Test to Find Out if You May Have Early Signs of Dementia or Alzheimer’s

Losing things or putting things in strange places, and then being unable to retrace steps to find them again is on the official observation list for early signs of dementia.

Sometimes someone else might be accused of stealing which may occur more frequently over time. For example, your dad may insist that a friend keeps stealing his money, whereas its in its regular hiding place.

Other examples that may indicate potential dementia symptoms could include:

  • Teabags in the fridge and leaving the milk out
  • Toothbrush in the washing basket
  • Remote control in the cutlery drawer
  • Dirty laundry in the dishwasher

Misplacing or losing items is more common in Alzheimers Disease, rather than vascular dementia. Find out more about the different types of dementia here.

This is different to: more normal age-related behaviours such as losing things but being able to retrace the steps to find them.

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Planning For The Future

Planning early makes it easier for someone with younger onset dementia to manage their financial, legal and medical affairs now and in the future.

If you have been diagnosed with younger onset dementia, it is important to make important decisions while you still can and while you are legally competent to sign any documents.

Things to think about include:

  • your living arrangements into the future
  • who can have access to your financial accounts
  • having joint signatures on all financial accounts
  • arranging when and how you will access your finances
  • talking to a financial adviser
  • sorting out superannuation, health and income insurance
  • writing or updating your will

If you have been diagnosed with dementia, its important to nominate a trusted person to manage your affairs in the future. You can do this through an Enduring Power of Attorney .

A financial EPA enables a nominated person to look after your financial affairs if you become unable to do so. A medical EPA covers only medical decisions. The laws regarding EPAs vary between states and territories, so it’s important to seek legal advice before the agreement is completed, or if you are moving interstate.

Some states also have medical guardianship . This allows someone to choose a person to make medical decisions for them. For more information on guardianship and administrators, visit the My Aged Care website.

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