Dementia is something that we tend to associate with old age, however, on rare occasions, it can also affect younger people. In fact, dementia is not a natural part of ageing at all—we can think of it as an umbrella term that describes several different diseases that cause damage within the brain, such as Alzheimer’s. While very unusual, early-onset dementia can impact people in their 50s, 40s, and even 30s.
Depending on the areas of the brain that are affected, the symptoms can vary, however, there are certain signs that we can watch out for. It is important to note that an array of other health issues can cause these sorts of symptoms. If you spot the signs of early-onset dementia in yourself or a loved one, going to your doctor to explain what you are experiencing is always the best course of action.
Why is Diagnosis Important?
Before we get into what might indicate early onset dementia, you may be wondering why diagnosis is important in the first place. While an immense amount of research is being done in the name of finding a cure, there is currently no medical intervention that can stop dementia in its tracks. However, a diagnosis can be helpful in multiple ways. Aside from ruling out any other medical conditions, identifying early-onset dementia allows us access to a spectrum of types of support. All manner of resources may be available to you, ranging from practical assistance through to legal and financial assistance, and even emotional support.
Crucially, a diagnosis of early-onset dementia will provide the opportunity to plan for the future. You, or your loved one, will be able to weigh up the most important priorities and how to spend time well in the years ahead, from a position of being fully informed. Practical preparations can be put in place such as preparing a will or giving a loved one power of attorney so that they can help to keep various affairs in order. An early diagnosis usually takes place when symptoms are mild, and the impact of dementia will likely get worse very gradually. This creates an opportunity for the individual who has received the diagnosis to steer how their life will transition and make every moment count.
Changes In Memory
We all have so-called senior moments in which we forget where we left our car keys, but emerging and ongoing issues with memory are certainly something to pay attention to. Quite often, we do not spot these sorts of signs in ourselves, but those we spend time with every day might notice a change. These types of memory lapses may manifest as not remembering why we entered a room, what is on the calendar for today, or even what we had for breakfast. Retaining information when reading legal documents, balancing the chequebook, or even following the storylines of favourite TV shows may also become more challenging.
Language and Communication
Another symptom that might point to dementia is struggling to find the right words or communicate thoughts as they occur. Keeping a conversation on track might feel like more of a challenge than it used to be, and the sufferer may begin repeating themselves or asking the same question having already received an answer. Again, these sorts of problems can simply be a sign of fatigue, extreme stress, or several other medical ailments, but when language and communication issues linger, a check-up is the wisest course of action.
Certain types of dementia can impact motor function, such as vascular dementia or dementia with Lewy bodies. This could manifest as frequent falls, moving more slowly than usual, or experiencing a loss of coordination. Early-onset dementia may also result in a loss of sense of direction, and difficulty orienting oneself within a once-familiar space.
Changes in Mood and Behaviour
Dementia can trigger mood changes such as depression or apathy and can even manifest as a shift in personality. The latter is because this type of cognitive decline can impact the parts of our brain responsible for judgement and reasoning abilities. When a spectrum of dementia symptoms first begin to manifest, moments of confusion and frustration may come along with them, as memories, vocabulary, and judgement are sporadically illusive.
Difficulty Adapting To Change
The experience of early-onset dementia can cause fear, especially when we do not understand what is going on. Those in the early stage of dementia tend to steer towards routine and feel afraid to try new experiences. This impact can make being adaptive to changes in everyday circumstances particularly difficult. Learning new skills can also become trickier.
What to do Next
If you or your loved one are experiencing enough of these symptoms to feel concerned, then a trip to the doctor is in order. Getting forgetful, or even experiencing more severe cognitive disruption doesn’t automatically point to dementia. However, these signs may be a warning of an underlying issue that requires treatment. If dementia does turn out to be the cause, then beginning the process of adjusting and preparing is a far more beneficial strategy than avoidance.
Diagnosing early-onset dementia is quite complex and tends to take time. If your doctor feels that further investigation is warranted, they will likely refer you or your loved one to a neurological specialist for tests and exams. Following a diagnosis, a variety of health regimes, medications, and therapies will be options to explore.
When the symptoms of dementia get too much, a qualified and compassionate care provider can make an immense difference. A daily or live-in carer will give tailored assistance that allows both confidence and peace of mind. If you would like to explore the various types of care available, call our team today for a chat and to arrange a no-commitment consultation.