Difficulty Completing Familiar Tasks
Some people may experience a greater problem with concentration. Routine day-to-day tasks requiring critical thought may take longer as the disease progresses.
The ability to drive safely may also be called into question. If you or a loved one gets lost while driving a commonly traveled route, this may be a symptom of AD.
Needing Constant Memory Aids
When your memory is in good working order, you can recall most things without always having to write them down or be reminded. However, those in the throes of early Alzheimer’s become more dependent on memory aids, like reminder notes, and often need their friends and family members to help them out. If you can’t so much as remember to pick your friend up at the airport without an alert on your phone telling you to do so, it might be time to see the doctor.
Differences In Signs Of Dementia In Men And Women
While it is true that the majority of dementia symptoms and signs are seen in both sexes, according to research, some differences can be appreciated between the two. They involve the rate and degree to which certain symptoms develop. The following are such symptoms:
Verbal skills: Men were seen to retain verbal fluency longer than women. This is the ability to correctly perform naming tasks, and the ability to successfully perform delayed recall of words.
Subjective memory complaints: Women were seen to experience memory impairment earlier in the course of dementia than men.
Depressive symptoms: Men with depressive symptoms were found to have a significantly higher risk of developing dementia, particularly Alzheimers disease, compared to women with depressive symptoms.
Rate of symptom progression: A study found that once the initial symptoms of dementia appear in men and women, they tend to progress at a faster rate in women than men. The reasoning for this correlation is not well understood but is suspected to be genetic or environmental in origin.
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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.
Mood And Behavioral Changes
Similarly, mood shifts and behavioral changes can occur for a number of reasons, so it doesnt automatically indicate AD. However, people living with the condition might become suspicious, confused, anxious, easily upset, or agitated. They may also act out or do things they typically would never do.
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What Causes Younger Onset Dementia
Many different types of dementia can affect younger people. Each type has its own symptoms and is caused by a specific type of change in the brain. Some causes of early onset dementia are:
- Alzheimers disease
- problems with blood flow to the brain
- deterioration to the front part of the brain
- chronic overuse of alcohol over many years
Difficulty Finding The Right Words
Another early symptom of dementia is difficulty with communicating thoughts. A person with dementia may have a hard time explaining something or finding the right words to express themselves. They may also stop in the middle of a sentence and not know how to continue.
Having a conversation with a person who has dementia can be challenging, and it may take longer than usual for them to express their thoughts or feelings.
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What Causes Early Onset Dementia
Although the exact trigger of the disease is unknown, research has shown that damage to the nerve cells may be caused by proteins in the brain:
- Beta-amyloid protein, which forms plaques over the neural tissue and damages memory cells in the brain
- Tau protein, which forms tangles and kills the neurons
Although these plaques and tangles occur in almost all people as they age, people with Alzheimers disease develop many more, leading to damage in the memory areas of the brain.
While in most cases the disease is sporadic, meaning it can occur without predisposing factors, it is also seen in people with a family history of Alzheimers disease.
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.
Interruptions With Your Life
This could actually be one of the most common signs of Alzheimers disease. Examples of this is forgetting learned information that you should know without thinking, such as your own birthdate or social security numbers. Many seniors tend to ask the same question over and over, in hopes they wont forget. Seniors may also forget important dates or special events that they went to quite often. Some may need to rely on memory aids or carry a handy notepad to keep important information on.
Decreased Or Poor Judgment
Another sign of early Alzheimers disease is the inability to make effective or logical judgment calls. Some seniors may experience resentment because they have problems with decision making or unable to comprehend what is right or wrong. They loose focus at times and may even find it hard to remember to bathe themselves. Seniors sometimes make bad decisions or often neglect their personal hygiene duties. This can be exceptionally dangerous especially if the senior is still driving and is not aware of their surroundings. Many seniors who have not yet been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers can experience these.
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A Failing Sense Of Direction
A persons sense of direction and spatial orientation commonly starts to get worse with the onset of dementia. They may have difficulty recognizing once-familiar landmarks and forget how to get to familiar places they used to have no trouble finding.
It may also become more difficult to follow a series of directions and step-by-step instructions.
Trouble Keeping Track Of And Paying Bills
Every month, you know exactly which bills are due and whenor at least, you used to know. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s, working with numbers becomes difficult, making it hard to ensure payments are going out on time. If you suddenly struggle to remember to pay the same bills you’ve been paying for years, talk to your doctor about the possibility of early onset dementia.
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Not Being Able To Follow Recipes
Something as minor as whipping up a home-cooked meal can be a struggle for those in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. If someone loses their ability to follow a recipeespecially one they’ve made a thousand timesthat might be an indication of the cognitive changes that commonly occur in the early stages of the disease.
Speaking Or Writing Challenges
A patient living with AD sometimes has a hard time participating in conversations or following along when others are talking. When speaking or writing, they might lose track of what theyre saying, stop in the middle of a sentence and be unable to continue, repeat phrases several times, or struggle with common vocabulary.
An individual can lose their train of thought or have to pause for a moment when a word is at the tip of their tongue. This is normal, but when it happens frequently and uncharacteristically, it could be a sign of Alzheimers.
Addressing Early Onset Alzheimers Symptoms
Fortunately, there are ways to begin treating some of the symptoms of early onset Alzheimers once its been identified, and there are ways of coping with the disease.
Family members may often have to advocate for their loved one if theyre experiencing these symptoms at a young age. Thats because primary care doctors, Ellison said, often do not have the specialized training to understand early symptoms of dementia and they typically have less and less time to spend with their patients.
Its critically important for families to persist, he said, because other treatable diseases may be causing dementia-like symptoms. Untreated attention disorder deficit, Ellison said, can often look like early dementia. In other cases, gastrointestinal issues cause dementia-like symptoms or multiple medications may be causing a negative reaction.
The first step is to check in with your doctor and ask for a memory or cognition test. Once you or your loved one has been assessed, your primary care doctor should refer you to a dementia specialist to run further tests and ultimately arrive at a diagnosis.
Being able to diagnose the disease early on can help your doctor tailor a treatment plan that may help slow the progression of the disease.
One critical reason to address early signs of dementia is the fact that Ellison and other experts say changes in lifestylediet, exercise and other stepscan help delay onset of full dementia.
How Is Early Onset Dementia And Alzheimers Diagnosed
Many people with early onset dementia face difficulty with getting an accurate or timely diagnosis, as well as increased medical costs and lack of proper medical care. This is because early onset dementia is uncommon and symptoms are often misinterpreted, leading to delays in diagnosis and untreated disease progression.
In general, diagnosis is made by examining:
- Family history
- Duration of presenting complaints of dementia
- Cognitive tests to assess memory, problem-solving, or other mental skills
- Blood tests and urine tests to assess whether there are abnormal protein levels in the body
- Computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging scans to assess the extent of tissue damage in the brain
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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.”
You Have A Family History Of Early
This is the biggest risk factor. Early-onset Alzheimers disease has a very strong genetic component, explains Stephen Rao, PhD, a neuropsychologist, chair and director of the Schey Center for Cognitive Neuroimaging at the Cleveland Clinic. If your parent or another close relative had early-onset, you should probably be testedneuropsychologically tested, but also genetically tested, as there are some definitive genetic markers.
The good news is that early-onset Alzheimers disease is much rarer than late-onset. Most people worried about memory and other cognitive issues before age 65 are probably just experiencing normal aging changes. And when there is some cognitive impairment, its likely to be due to reasons other than early-onset Alzheimers disease, such as medical conditions, emotional problems like depression or stress, sleep impairment, or medication side effects.
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.
Symptoms Specific To Frontotemporal Dementia
Although Alzheimer’s disease is still the most common type of dementia in people under 65, a higher percentage of people in this age group may develop frontotemporal dementia than older people. Most cases are diagnosed in people aged 45-65.
Early symptoms of frontotemporal dementia may include:
- personality changes reduced sensitivity to others’ feelings, making people seem cold and unfeeling
- lack of social awareness making inappropriate jokes or showing a lack of tact, though some people may become very withdrawn and apathetic
- language problems difficulty finding the right words or understanding them
- becoming obsessive such as developing fads for unusual foods, overeating and drinking
Read more about frontotemporal dementia.
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Are There Programs That Can Help Those With Alzheimers
The Administration of Community Living, or ACL, offers grants that can support state and community efforts to increase the availability of dementia-capable home and community-based services. The support extends to people dealing with Alzheimers disease and related dementia and their families. One particular program, the Alzheimers Disease Programs Initiative , I has three components:
- Create agreements and grants that fund states, communities and Tribal entities for the developing and implementing support, as well as partnering up with public and private entities to identify and address specific needs of ADRD persons and their caregivers
- Incorporate grant funding to support the National Alzheimers Call Center
- Continue to contract to fund the National Alzheimers and Dementia Resource Center ongoing activities.
Key Points About Early
Alzheimer disease commonly affects older people, but early-onset Alzheimer disease can affect people in their 30s or 40s.
It affects memory, thinking, and behavior.
Although there is no known cure, early diagnosis and treatment can lead to better quality of life.
Stay healthy with a good diet and regular exercise.
Avoid alcohol and other substances that may affect memory, thinking, and behavior.
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Attention And Language Impairment
While memory challenges can be involved in early onset Alzheimers, signs that something could be wrong can be much broader. In fact, experts note that memory loss, which is closely associated with Alzheimers, may actually be less prominent in people with early onset Alzheimers.
Instead, people with early onset Alzheimers often complain about difficulties finding words in conversation. They can experience problems with attention and orientation, as well as with simple math.
In the aggregate, patients with early-onset Alzheimers Disease, compared to similarly impaired patients with late-onset Alzheimers Disease, have better memory recognition scores and semantic memory but worse attention, language, executive functions, ideomotor praxis, and visuospatial skills, a research paper by Dr. Mario Mendez noted.
Stopping In The Middle Of A Conversation
If you find yourself or someone else stopping in the middle of a conversation, it could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s. When this is the case, the Alzheimer’s Association notes it’s really hard for an individual to jump back in. They have no idea how to continue on after the pause, so help them out by reminding them where you left off.
Do Not Ignore Early Signs Of Dementia
The signs and symptoms of dementia can be subtle. They dont appear as they do in a person with a more advanced stage of the disease. Sometimes, even a healthcare provider might miss the opportunity to pursue an early diagnosis because theyre unfamiliar with how the stages progress.
When quizzing a patient during an assessment, a doctor who doesnt specialize in cognitive health and brain function might ask questions a person in the later stages of the disease wont have the ability to answer correctly. However, a person with early-onset dementia can answer simple questions, which may result in a misdiagnosis.
A critical early diagnosis might also be missed when the person experiencing symptoms, or their loved ones, choose to ignore the signs. People with early-onset Alzheimers can often recognize when something isnt right. The signs are there, but theyre either ignored or denied outright.
Young Husband And Wife Speak About Pain Of Early Onset Dementia
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The Alzheimer’s Research UK charity warned that symptoms of dementia can be “difficult for people, families and doctors to recognise”. When abnormal proteins start to disrupt the normal functioning of the brain, what do you look out for? Firstly, the person experiencing dementia may encounter “visual problems”. This can make judging distance, speed, or distances more difficult, and the affected person may have trouble with recognising objects.
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