Early Onset Alzheimer’s is classified as the onset of Alzheimer’s disease before the age of 65 and accounts for only 5-10% of cases diagnosed. Both Alzheimer’s and Early Onset Alzheimer’s are still very little understood. While a genetic predisposition can be passed through family in many cases the cause of the onset of this condition is unknown.
If you have concern for yourself or a loved one you can consider the following symptoms as alert signals but be aware that many of the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s overlap with the symptoms of stress. If your instinct of concern persists, pursuing medical advice and assessment is always the best choice, allowing you to eliminate concerns or, in the unlikely case of a diagnosis of Early Onset Alzheimer’s, to take every step to make the best possible provisions for you and your loved ones.
Although some cases present a-typically, most patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s will at first have trouble with short term memory. Their recall of major life events, interesting facts and familiarity with loved ones remains intact but memory of recent events can be lost. This memory loss can result in disorientation. Repetition in speech or forgetting an episode of memory loss can be signs to watch out for, keeping in mind that the sufferer may not notice these gaps in their own perception.
A person experiencing the symptoms of Early Onset Alzheimer’s may display changes in personality. Apathy is a very common symptom in day to day activities. It can also be common to withdraw from social contact, and they may experience depression, anger, anxiety or fearfulness. A sufferer might withdraw subconsciously or because they sense something is wrong and find interaction stressful. Changes in routine become more impactful as their abilities to adapt and react are impaired.
As Alzheimer’s effects our capacity to problem solve as well as memory of recent actions, personal hygiene may not be maintained. Activities such as bathing and changing clothes may be forgotten or prove too difficult.
Difficulties With Words And Numbers
A sufferer may begin to struggle with speech, pausing mid-sentence or making strange word substitutions because they cannot recall the correct vocabulary. They may also begin to have difficulty with numbers, failing to maintain monthly finances, forgetting responsibilities and even making questionable financial decisions.
Someone affected by Alzheimer’s may either struggle to maintain focus on a task at hand, or take much longer to complete it as their critical thinking capacity is reduced. Abstract thought and grasping new concepts becomes more difficult.
A sufferer might experience disorientation as they lose track of where they are, how they got there or why they came. This can lead to distress and also mistrust of others. The sufferer might also lose track of belongings or leave things in strange places. They may also struggle to keep track of the passage of time and how events fit together.
As well as general disorientation an Alzheimer’s sufferer may struggle with depth perception and colour difference. They may no longer recognise routes they have taken many times or be able to react appropriately to other drivers or unexpected hazards on the road.
The Next Steps
Seeking medical assessment is always prudent when faced with unusual symptoms. If a Doctor confirms that you have cause for concern you will be referred to a specialist to make a full assessment which may include looking at your personal and family medical history, cognitive testing, medical imaging via scans and blood tests. These exams will seek to eliminate other potential causes of the symptoms present as well as to seek an accurate diagnosis.
Those diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s will face particular challenges as they may be professionally active, financially responsible and have dependents. It is important to prepare as well as possible to navigate money management, plan for transition out of work and a plan for home support and care as the need arises.
Should a diagnosis of Early Onset Alzheimer’s occur there are many resources available to inform you of the progression of the disease and to guide and support you through it. When faced with such a challenge, getting as organised as possible will allow you to make the most of your relationships and navigate this disease more easily.