When it comes to Alzheimer’s disease, and other forms of dementia, early detection is the key to managing the symptoms and curtailing the progress of the disorder.
In the majority of dementia cases, symptoms and impairment do not become noticeable until after the age of 65.
Yet, there still a small percentage of occurrences where the symptoms begin to manifest much earlier, when the person is anywhere between 40 and 60 years old.
This is what is known as early onset dementia.
How to Recognize the Warning Signs of Early Onset Alzheimer’s
If you feel that a family member or friend may be developing symptoms of dementia at an early age, there are several warning signs to watch out for that can help make an early diagnosis.
Some of the early symptoms of early onset dementia, may include:
- Slight memory impairment
- Communication difficulties
- Problems staying on task
- Trouble with critical thinking
- Sudden mood swings
- Failure to adjust or plan for the future
Slight Memory Impairment
Likely the most noticeable symptom of someone with early onset dementia is impaired memory. Memory impairment usually starts out mild at first.
It often begins with absent minded mistakes like losing your keys or forgetting someone’s name.
It may involve the person quickly forgetting something they just learned. Or entering a room and not remembering why they came in there in the first place.
Another problem that can occur is recognizable difficulties with speech and the ability to hold a conversation.
If you are having a conversation with someone that has early onset Alzheimer’s, they may frequently ask you to repeat what you previously said.
Also, people in early stages of the illness often have trouble expressing clear thoughts and ideas. They may have problems organizing responses in a concise and relevant manner.
Staying on Task
Keeping up with daily tasks and routines may become a struggle with out constant reminders and referencing notes to see what is next on the agenda.
Aside for following regular schedules, the problem of staying task can also occur at another level. That is focusing on the job at hand. Tasks that have been routine for years may suddenly become a problem.
This typically starts out with more complex activities like dealing with finances, or preparing a presentation for work.
Problem solving can become extremely challenging for people with early onset dementia.
Many of the skills required for critical thinking are directly affected by the disease.
Early onset Alzheimer’s can impair the ability to adapt to problems in real time and arrive at an appropriate solution.
Poor judgement can result in Alzheimer sufferers focusing on the wrong details, instead of the important points.
Problems with spatial orientation and sense of direction are very common in all stages of dementia.
With early onset Alzheimer’s it usually starts out by not remembering directions, like how to get to the grocery store in your neighborhood.
They may become unfamiliar with significant landmarks, and also may have trouble following directions they have just been given.
People with early onset dementia may start to repeat themselves. They may ask the same questions over and over because they don’t remember the answer you just gave.
They also will likely bring up the same topics of conversation already discussed, because they have no memory of it happening in the first place.
A person with early onset Alzheimer’s may all of a sudden start losing interests in hobbies and other activities.
Their personality may become flat and they may seem disinterested in everything.
This is often a coping mechanism for dealing with a frustrating situation, where they have no idea why this is happening to them.
Complete social isolation can be an extreme result.
Sudden Mood Swings
This also tends to be the result of frustration and confusion. Not being able to effectively deal with the problems at hand can cause mood swings and even depression.
Adapting and Planning
These two skills that are integral for future success are often impaired by the early onset of dementia.
Adapting on the fly becomes challenging, as it requires many of the same skills as critical thinking. This inability to adapt to new situations, can make dementia sufferers fearful and adverse to change.
The inability to plan in advance can become a big problem for people with early onset dementia who don’t get the necessary help and treatment.