Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia, and with a perpetually aging population in Canada the prevalence of the disease is growing.
Alzheimer’s most typically appears in people over the age of 65. However, some people that have what is known as early onset dementia can begin developing symptoms in their 40s and 50s.
A diagnosis made for early onset Alzheimer’s is rare because most believe dementia is only for the elderly, and something else must be causing the symptoms.
There are several warning signs to be on the lookout for, if you suspect a family member may be exhibiting behaviors of early onset dementia.
Warning Signs for Early Onset Dementia
Many of the symptoms of early onset dementia are quite similar to the traditional strain of the illness, but often less pronounced, making them more difficult to detect.
Some warning signs to pay attention to, might be:
- Subtle memory differences
- Mood swings
- Difficulty with routine tasks
- Mild confusion
- Trouble expressing themselves
- Problems adjusting or adapting to new situations
Slight Changes in Memory
Everybody knows that dementia affects the memory. But with early onset Alzheimer’s, memory changes are generally quite subtle and gradual.
Most memory issues for people with early onset dementia are to do with the short-term memory.
For example, always misplacing things, or forgetting what they are doing in the moment.
Abrupt changes in mood are common with early onset dementia. It may not be noticeable to the person it is happening to, but other people may be able to notice a difference.
Depression is frequently a symptom of early onset dementia.
Sometimes there may even be small personality changes, but that is more likely when the disease takes the full effect.
Difficulty Staying on Task
Early onset dementia sufferers can have trouble completing a routine task that they have done many times before.
Forgetting how to do something or why they are doing it is often the reason. This usually starts with more complex tasks, like taking care of finances or making an important decision.
They also may have trouble learning new concepts.
Confusion is a very typical symptom of Alzheimer’s, and it often begins in the early onset stages.
It is usually problems with memory and judgement that can easily cause a person to become confused.
This may come in the form of social confusion, having difficulty remembering someone they have met before. It also may be confusion about where they are, or what they are doing there.
Trouble with Expression
Finding the right words to explain thoughts in a clear manner is a frequent warning sign of early onset dementia.
Early onset dementia patients may have a hard time holding a conversation, because not only might they have problems with articulation, they may also have trouble processing the information from the other speaker.
People with early onset dementia often repeat themselves, in conversation and in daily tasks.
If you are having the same conversation over and over with someone, it is possible they might have early onset dementia.
They may say, “Oh, I have to take out the garbage”. Just after they have taken out the garbage.
This is another common symptom for all stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Sense of direction is one of the first things to go for a lot people experiencing early onset dementia.
People with the illness may forget the way to the corner store, or where friends and family live.
These problems with spatial orientation can result in not recognizing familiar landmarks or the layout of the neighborhood they live in.
Adjusting and Adapting
Early onset dementia not only has an impact on remembering past events, but also adapting for the future.
New situations can cause stress and worry because the person may have trouble figuring out the context of what is happening.
A few experiences like this, and suddenly they are terrified of unfamiliar circumstances and don’t want to stray from a strict routine.
How to Slow the Progression of Early Onset Dementia
There is still no cure for Alzheimer’s or dementia, but there are certain practices that can be used to slow the spread of the disease.
People with early onset dementia should:
- Eat a nutritious diet
- Get regular exercise
- Get routine, quality sleep
- Engage in regular social activity
- Take an active role in treatment process
- Consult the experts