While aging is the greatest risk factor associated with Alzheimer’s disease, the disease is not a normal part of aging.
Most people with Alzheimer’s are 65 or older. But this is not an indication that Alzheimer’s is strictly a disease of old age. Thousands of younger people have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, too.
Nearly 200,000 people in the United States under 65 — and some as young as 40 — have been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Many also care for loved ones who have been diagnosed, and they likely would recognize the signs and symptoms of the disease.
Perhaps you or a loved one has noticed signs that dementia or Alzheimer’s might be on your horizon. It’s a scary thought, but if the signs are appearing, they can’t be ignored.
Do not ignore early signs of dementia
The signs and symptoms of dementia can be subtle. They don’t appear as they do in a person with a more advanced stage of the disease. Sometimes, even a healthcare provider might miss the opportunity to pursue an early diagnosis because they’re unfamiliar with how the stages progress.
When quizzing a patient during an assessment, a doctor who doesn’t specialize in cognitive health and brain function might ask questions a person in the later stages of the disease won’t have the ability to answer correctly. However, a person with early-onset dementia can answer simple questions, which may result in a misdiagnosis.
A critical early diagnosis might also be missed when the person experiencing symptoms, or their loved ones, choose to ignore the signs. People with early-onset Alzheimer’s can often recognize when something isn’t right. The signs are there, but they’re either ignored or denied outright.
By veiling mistakes and missteps with excuses, a person can remain in denial and fail to be diagnosed. It is difficult to do, but facing these symptoms head-on is the best way to combat the changes taking place in the brain and prepare for the future.
Understand and acknowledge dementia symptoms
If you believe you may be experiencing symptoms, do not dismiss the changes taking place in your brain, and don’t write them off as a normal part of aging. If you’re experiencing the following symptoms or notice them in a loved one’s behavior, seek medical attention.
Memory loss negatively affects daily life
Memory loss is the primary symptom of Alzheimer’s and dementia, but occasionally misplacing the car keys or forgetting where your car is parked aren’t definitive signs. Memory loss that continues to negatively affect daily life could be a signal.
Do you or a loved one, having forgotten the answer to a recently asked question, ask it again, perhaps several times? Are you relying on memory tricks to help you hold on to things you’d normally remember? Are you making an inordinate number of lists to remind yourself of this or that?
This may not be normal behavior and may be a sign of cognitive issues that should be addressed.
A loss for words
While putting words together has never been a problem in the past, suddenly a person might find themselves searching for the right word to use in conversation. They may use the wrong word in place of another or call an object by the wrong name. The name given the object might be similar to what it actually is, or perhaps it is more a definition than a name or title.
For example, rather than calling a watch by its common name, the person might define it as “arm clock” or “wrist clock.” They also might have a hard time following a conversation.
Simple tasks become complicated
A person with early-onset dementia might take a long way home because they momentarily forgot the way. They might fail to remember a recipe they’ve made by memory a thousand times, or forget how to play a simple card game.
Keeping up with a storyline might be difficult. Little things might have become confusing, and foggy moments could occur.
Loss of interest in a favorite hobby or pastime
A person may experience a loss of motivation. They might not have a desire to do much of anything and seem satisfied to sit in one place for long periods rather than being active. They’re often less engaged.
Personal decisions can make less sense, and choices might stray from how the person normally would react in certain situations. Poor choices are made. A person with early signs of dementia may become suspicious of a spouse, child, or close friend.
A change in personality often signals changes in the brain. Bouts with anger, depression, anxiousness, or any trait that is opposite to what the person usually exhibits might be a sign that cognitive changes are taking place.
The above symptoms can be signs of dementia, but also of treatable conditions. Speak with a qualified health professional to be diagnosed, particularly one who specializes in cognitive issues that affect the brain.
Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.