EARLY ONSET ALZHEIMER’S
The risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease increases significantly with age. It mainly affects people over 65, and the risk doubles every five years after that. However, up to 5 percent of individuals living with Alzheimer’s have Early Onset which occurs before age 65. Sometimes even as young as their 40s or 50s.
The medical community does not currently understand the causes for early-onset Alzheimer’s. However the family link does appear to be stronger with early onset than other forms of Alzheimer’s.
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What is Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease?
Middle aged people have a lot of responsibilities. That is why this form of the disease can be particularly devastating. When diagnosed, patients are usually working and have families. Sometimes they are even caring for other family members themselves.
It is also difficult to get an accurate diagnosis, as it is so rare.
The symptoms of early onset are essentially the same as when Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed later in life. Symptoms can easily be wrongly associated with other conditions that are more common in middle age. For example mental illnesses and stress or depression.
Early Onset Alzheimer’s Symptoms:
- Mood swings
- Forgetfulness- such as difficulty remembering appointments or important dates
- Difficulty learning new things- difficulty following basic directions.
- Repetition- asking the same things over and over
- Struggles in communicating, such as having difficulty finding the appropriate words to express what you mean to say
- Losing personal belongings
- Getting lost frequently or forgetting how you got somewhere
- Poor decision making
Mis-diagnosis can often lead to delayed treatment which can be detrimental. If you suspect you may have early onset Alzheimer’s, talk to your doctor. He or she can first do blood tests and other testing to rule out other possible diagnosis. There is also cognitive testing, and imaging of the brain. You may be referred to a neurologist at this point.
Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease has no cure. However there are ways to slow the progression and maintain as much quality of life as possible. There are a handful of medications that can be prescribed to help maintain cognitive function. The effects of these medications are usually minimal but when prescribed early enough thy can help manage symptoms at least temporarily.
Tip: Check out the Smart Pill Reminder Box to help ensure your aging loved one is taking their medication on time.
The most marked improvements are usually associated with lifestyle changes such as:
- Managing complicating medical conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes
- Increasing cardio-vascular activity
- Including food that are rich in antioxidants into your diet – 100 Alzheimer’s Friendly Recipes
- Reducing or cutting out alcohol consumption
- Reducing Stress- Check out this aromatherapy diffuser as a stress relief tool
Various forms of cognitive “brain training” have been linked to reduction of symptoms. This does not mean just cross word puzzles or sudoku. although they are fun. It must be a scientific, evidence based training program.
Put solid plans in place for the future.
After receiving a diagnosis, immediately seek out advice from trusted advisors and put your legal documents in place if you have not already. The AARP has a really great product to help keep you organized in doing so, the ABA/AARP Checklist for my Family. Your family will need these to support you as your illness progresses. It is also important to identify local resources for support for both you and your loved ones.
The average life expectancy after diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease is eight to 10 years but in some cases it can be much shorter. Studies are limited regarding the life expectancy of patients with early- onset specifically. However it is suspected that early onset progresses faster than Alzheimer’s disease that onsets later in life. This is why putting good plan in place early is critical. Knowing you have a manageable plan will be very reassuring for you and your family.
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