Alzheimer’s disease and dementia have been around for a while.
In the past, Alzheimer’s patients were just said to be senile. And memory loss was just part of aging. But today, we know a ton more about the disease and its symptoms.
One of the things we know is that Alzheimer’s typically affects adults over the age of 65. And, true, dementia is more common in elderly adults. But younger adults are at risk too.
In fact, there’s a specific type of Alzheimer’s that affects adults in their 40s or 50s. And it’s known as Early Onset Alzheimer’s.
In younger adults, the disease often is either totally missed, or misdiagnosed, by primary care physicians. These doctors will often believe the symptoms are due to stress or other factors.
So What Exactly Is Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease?
Quite simply, Early Onset Alzheimer’s is pretty much the same as “regular” Alzheimer’s. The thing that makes it different is it occurs in younger adults.
Unfortunately we don’t exactly know why Early Onset Alzheimer’s symptoms happen in younger brains. Some studies have found several genetic mutations may cause it. Which is why it’s sometimes referred to as “familial dementia.” These genetic mutations are involved in 60% – 70% of Early Onset Alzheimer’s cases.
There is genetic testing available for these mutations. However, it’s recommended that you talk with a doctor first.
Even with these genetic markers, getting an accurate diagnosis for Early Onset Alzheimer’s isn’t easy. It often will require extensive testing, neurological exams and brain mapping.
Early Onset Alzheimer’s Symptoms
As you might expect, Early Onset Alzheimer’s symptoms largely involve memory loss.
These will include challenges with…
- Planning or solving problems
- Completing familiar tasks at home or work
- Misplacing things
- Chronic forgetfulness
- Changes in mood and/or personality
These symptoms disrupt daily life. And they are particularly hard for a younger adult (who often still is raising a family and/or in the prime of their career) to handle.
Getting an accurate diagnosis is important. You’ll want to see whether the symptoms are actually due to early dementia or some other issue.
And there are some major differences between just being forgetful and suffering from dementia. You can read our article, “Is It Just a “Senior Moment” Or a Sign of Alzheimer’s” to learn more.
Planning for the Future with Early Onset Alzheimer’s
If you’ve been diagnosed with Early Onset Alzheimer’s, you don’t have to figure things out on your own. The Alzheimer’s Association has some good suggestions for coping after a diagnosis. They include…
Get Educated About the Disease and Its Impact on Your Life
Unfortunately, there’s no way around it. Early Onset Alzheimer’s will impact your life… As a spouse… As a parent… As an employee.
Grieving over the expected changes in your life is totally normal. So it’s important to take care of both your physical and emotional needs.
So educate yourself. Find and use a local support group. Doing these things will help you and your family more forward after a diagnosis.
Plan for Your Financial Future
In younger adults, Early Onset Alzheimer’s will often affect your ability to work. It’s best to be open and honest with your employer about your situation. They may have options and benefits you can take advantage of such as disability insurable, family and medical leave, early retirement, and other health insurance benefits.
The Alzheimer’s Association has put together a great guide about financial and health care benefits for Alzheimer’s patients. You can get it here.
Plan for Future Care
Acting sooner, rather than later is a good idea. Because you’ll be able to help decide on future plans and put some of those plans into action. Some of the things you can play a role in early on include…
- Deciding on what kind of care you want in the later stages of Alzheimer’s
- Talking to your doctor about being a part of a research study
- Looking into long term care options and memory care facilities in your area
These are not easy, enjoyable decisions to make. However, choosing how you want to live your life with Alzheimer’s makes it easier for you and your family to cope with the disease.
Take Good Care Of Yourself
If there’s a silver lining with Early Onset Alzheimer’s, it lies in your choices of how you live. The best advice here is to take care of yourself… physically, emotionally, socially and spiritually. Find activities or professionals who can help ease your stress. Taking each day as it comes is helpful when coping with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.