What Are The First Signs Of Early
47 million people around the world suffer from age-related cognitive diseases. According to WHO forecasts, by 2030, this figure will increase up to 75 million people.
However, dementia does not always depend on the factor of aging. Alzheimers is the most common condition among young people that leads to the development of dementia. It accounts for up to 80% of dementia cases.
Unfortunately, there is currently no effective medicine or therapy that could cure dementia. Nevertheless, if you notice the symptoms at an early stage, a simple lifestyle change can significantly slow down the development of the disease. Find out what can cause dementia and take action to prevent its development already now!
Staring With Reduced Gaze And Trouble Reading
Reduced gaze is the clinical term for the dementia symptom that alters peoples ability to move their eyes normally. We all move our eyes and track with them frequently, says Rankin. But people showing early signs of dementia look like theyre staring a lot. Rankin adds that, they try to read and they skip lines. This is one of the signs of dementia that the patient might not completely be aware of, although people around them probably will be.
Getting An Accurate Diagnosis
â with young onset is that dementia is not something that they think about initially. If youâre a woman, the first thing they think about is menopause and depression and anxiety and panic and sleep disorders and all those kinds of things.â â Faye, from Windsor Junction, Nova Scotia. Faye lives with young onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Diagnosing dementia can be a long and complicated process. For younger people, itâs even more complicated and frustrating. Healthcare providers are often reluctant to diagnose dementia in someone so young, and itâs common for a person who has young onset dementia to be misdiagnosed with another condition, such as depression.
As a a result, the person living with young onset dementia may not get the appropriate knowledge, treatment and support to fight the disease.
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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.
Withdrawing From Work And Social Life
People with early onset Alzheimers, who were once industrious and focused at their challenging jobs, may begin noticing a drop in concentration, motivation or productivity thats out of character for them. They may also find themselves isolating from family, friends, coworkers or hobbies that they used to previously enjoy.
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Stage : Mild Dementia
At this stage, individuals may start to become socially withdrawn and show changes in personality and mood. Denial of symptoms as a defense mechanism is commonly seen in stage 4. Behaviors to look for include:
- Difficulty remembering things about one’s personal history
- Difficulty recognizing faces and people
In stage 4 dementia, individuals have no trouble recognizing familiar faces or traveling to familiar locations. However, patients in this stage will often avoid challenging situations in order to hide symptoms or prevent stress or anxiety.
Where To Get Help
- Your local community health centre
- National Dementia Helpline Dementia Australia Tel. 1800 100 500
- Aged Care Assessment Services Tel. 1300 135 090
- My Aged Care 1800 200 422
- Cognitive Dementia and Memory Service clinics Tel. 1300 135 090
- Carers Victoria Tel. 1800 242 636
- Commonwealth Carelink and Respite Centres Australian Government Tel. 1800 052 222
- Dementia Behaviour Management Advisory Service Tel. 1800 699 799 for 24-hour telephone advice for carers and care workers
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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.
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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Diagnosis Of Young Onset Dementia
- On average, a person may see between two and five different consultants before a diagnosis is made
- The average time to diagnosis is 4.4 years in younger people compared to 2.2 years for people aged over 65
- In England in August 2018, the estimated dementia diagnosis rate for under 65s was 41%, compared to 68% for people aged over 65
- Awareness amongst GPs is still relatively low and when people are younger, symptoms are often attributed to stress, anxiety, depression or menopause
- People who are under 65 are more likely to be diagnosed with a genetically inherited form of dementia or a rarer dementia that can be difficult to recognise
Other Types Of Dementia
Other progressive forms of dementia include frontotemporal dementia, Lewy body dementia, and vascular dementiaand it’s also possible to have a combination of dementia types.
With frontotemporal dementia, nerve cells in the parts of the brain involved in behavior, communication, and personality begin to degenerate. Thus, people with this condition typically have symptoms that impact how they behave, reason, or communicate. Movement is also affected.
Lewy Body Dementia
In Lewy body dementia, wads of protein accumulate in the brain. These proteins can also be found in patients with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases. People with this form of dementia might hallucinate, have trouble concentrating, or experience difficulty with physical coordination and movement.
Vascular dementia is second only to Alzheimers in its prevalence in people with dementia. It occurs as a result of problems with the blood vessels that involve the brain. While people with this form of dementia may have difficulty with recall, their most obvious symptoms are likely to be trouble with organization, reasoning, concentration, and thinking quickly.
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What Causes Frontotemporal Dementia
Researchers have not identified a single cause for this type of dementia, but they have some ideas. Some peoples brains develop abnormal protein structures, called Pick bodies.
Researchers have also identified abnormal proteins that may play a role. These proteins, found in brain cells of individuals who died with dementia, may affect how the brain works. Researchers dont know why these proteins develop or how to prevent them.
Becoming Confused In Familiar Surroundings
This is different to: getting confused about the day of the week but working it out later.
Your parent may forget where they are and how they got there. Along with losing track of dates, seasons and the time this is one of the most tell-tale signs of early onset dementia.
They may also struggle to understand something if its not happening immediately. This is because the mind of someone with dementia is mostly situated in the present and they find it difficult to comprehend the passage of time.
For example, your mum may tell you shes missed you because she thinks she hasnt seen you in a long time, but in reality you visited her last week. Another example includes time passing very slowly in a general sense: ten minutes might seem like an hour, an hour might seem like a day and so on.
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Timely Treatment Saves Lives
Symptoms of dementia at a young age are similar to those of age-related cognitive disorders. For delaying the development of Alzheimers disease and dementia, it is vital to notice the warning signs before the condition evolves.
Dementia is caused by the death of brain cells and neurodegenerative processes. This condition affects all spheres of a persons life. Coping with it alone or without professional assistance doubles the challenge.
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The Needs Of People Affected By Young Onset Dementia
People living with young onset dementia and their family members state that they need:
- early recognition of the signs and symptoms suggestive of dementia
- accurate and timely diagnosis
- awareness of their condition, especially from health and social care professionals
- specialist information at the time of diagnosis
- identification of a person who specialises in young onset dementia to support them and their family to work on a support plan to meet their needs
- better communication between agencies
- access to a specialist helpline
- support around employment issues
- emotional support and relationship counselling
- age-appropriate information, advice and support to stay active and maintain independence
- age-appropriate meaningful occupation and activities
- to feel connected to others
- peer support groups
- support to retain a life beyond caring
Early recognition and timely accurate diagnosis of dementia, combined with appropriate specialist support, can reduce the distress experienced by the person with young onset dementia and their family.
If you have any cause for concern, it is a good idea to make an appointment to see a doctor. Seeing a doctor early on can reduce anxiety and worry and provide you with answers.
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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.
Failing To Pick Up On Sarcasm And Spot A Liar
You may or may not appreciate a sarcastic sense of humor, but sarcasm is a part of our culture. “We see it as a nice way to be critical and so we use it constantly, even when we are trying to be nice,” says Dr. Rankin, whose research found that people with both frontotemporal dementia and Alzheimer’s disease tend to have a harder time picking up on sarcasm.
Another unusual sign of dementia Rankin noticed? People with FTD couldn’t tell when someone was lying, although people with Alzheimer’s disease could tell. “FTD patients don’t have that sense anymore that things that people do could turn out badly,” she says.
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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.
Prevalence Of Young Onset Dementia
- In 2014, it was estimated that there were 42,325 people in the UK with a diagnosis of young onset dementia. They represent around 5% of the 900,000 people living with dementia
- The actual figure is likely to be higher because of the difficulties of diagnosing the condition and might be closer to 6-9% of all people living with dementia
- Prevalence rates for young onset dementia in black and minority ethnic groups are higher than for the population as a whole. People from BAME backgrounds are less likely to receive a diagnosis or support
- People with a learning disability are at greater risk of developing dementia at a younger age. Studies have shown that one in ten develop young onset Alzheimers disease between the age of 50 to 65. The number of people with Downs syndrome who develop Alzheimers disease is even greater
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How Does Young Onset Dementia Develop
The early symptoms of young onset dementia may not be memory loss. Symptoms can differ from one person to another depending on the type of dementia a person has, and which parts of the brain it affects.
Dementias affecting the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain are more common in younger people so it is more likely that the early symptoms may include changes in:
- vision and spatial awareness
In addition, the person may not recognise the changes or may be reluctant to accept there is anything wrong when they are otherwise fit and well, and so put off visiting their doctor.
Problems Writing Or Speaking
The person may also have difficulty with words and communication. They may find it hard to follow or contribute to a conversation, or they may repeat themselves. They may also have difficulty writing down their thoughts.
The person may stop in the middle of a conversation, unable to figure out what to say next. They may also struggle to find the right word or label things incorrectly.
It is not uncommon for people to occasionally struggle to find the right word. Typically, they eventually remember it and do not experience the problem frequently.
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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.
An Increase In Compulsive Ritualistic Behaviors
One sign of dementia that most people dont expect is the need to complete extreme rituals or compulsive behaviors. Plenty of people have odd habits and like things done a certain way, says Rankin. But while these habits are within the realm of normal, extreme hoarding or detailed rituals or compulsions, such as buying a crossword puzzle book every time they go to the store even if they have hundreds of them, can be dementia symptoms.
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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.
Other Forms Of Dementia Common In Younger People
Younger people are more susceptible to other, more unusual forms of dementia . Some examples are fronto-temporal dementia , Korsakoffs syndrome and HIV-related dementia.
Each form of dementia has characteristic symptoms, as well as more general symptoms of dementia. For example, fronto-temporal dementia affects the frontal lobe and/or the temporal parts of the brain, which deal with behaviour, emotional responses and language skills. If this part of the brain is damaged, a person may start to display inappropriate, disinhibited behaviour, such as swearing loudly and often. People with Lewy body dementia may experience visual hallucinations, irregular sleep patterns and falls. If care staff know this sort of information, they are far better equipped to respond to the particular needs of the individuals they are working with.
Dementia can be more severe in a younger person and is often associated with physical symptoms and rapid progression. This is particularly the case with rare forms of dementia such as Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease and HIV-related dementia.
To find out more about these and other forms of dementia go to the Alzheimers Society website and see its factsheet on Younger people with dementia.
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