Alzheimer’s disease, no matter when it makes itself known, is challenging to cope with. Developing a good understanding of the disease and finding the right care is essential in order to delay the progression and manage symptoms.
When you think of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, you likely picture older adults living with these challenges, as 80% of those living with Alzheimer’s dementia are 75 years and older. However, early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that can impact individuals in their 40s or 50s.
Oaks Senior Living, with memory care communities throughout Georgia, understands the challenges associated with all stages and forms of memory impairment. We want to bring awareness to early-onset Alzheimer’s disease to help those who may be navigating this journey.
What is Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease?
Early onset Alzheimer’s disease “is thought to affect between 220.000 and 640,000 Americans.”
The most common distinction between early and late onset Alzheimer’s disease is the age in which it affects an individual. As the more common, late onset Alzheimer’s disease affects adults later in life, the symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease can be seen in individuals as young as 40. An individual diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease before the age of 65 is considered early-onset.
Early onset and late onset Alzheimer’s disease are similar in how they affect the brain and the individual’s ability to perform everyday tasks and activities. In early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, however, the younger adult lives with Alzheimer’s disease much longer, allowing more time for the disease to progress.
There are two main types of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease:
- Common Alzheimer’s disease – Most individuals affected by early-onset Alzheimer’s disease have this form, and the disease progresses similarly to the way it does in older individuals.
- Genetic (familial) Alzheimer’s disease – “This form is very rare. A few hundred people have genes that directly contribute to Alzheimer’s disease. These people start showing symptoms of the disease in their 30s, 40s, or 50s.”
Symptoms that Could Indicate Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
The symptoms of early-onset and late onset Alzheimer’s disease are essentially the same, and some common symptoms can include:
- Memory loss – The most common symptom of Alzheimer’s disease, and, although mild forgetfulness is common with age, it is an indication of the condition when it affects daily activities. Memory loss is more prominent in those with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and the individual may often forget the same information.
- Difficulty completing everyday tasks – When an individual no longer remembers how to complete tasks that he or she has done numerous times, this could be a strong sign of the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.
- Trouble with planning or problem-solving – Following directions, problem-solving, and focusing can be difficult for a person affected by Alzheimer’s disease.
- Deteriorated vision and spatial awareness – Although changes in eyesight are common with normal aging, individuals with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease may experience vision problems much sooner in life. Trouble distinguishing colors and judging distance at a younger age is a prominent symptom of this disease.
- Confusion about time and location – “Another common sign of early-onset Alzheimer’s is getting confused about places or time. A person may have trouble keeping track of seasons, months, or time of day. A person may occasionally be unable to recognize where they are or have no memory of how they got there.”
- Language (writing or speaking) problems – Individuals affected by any form of Alzheimer’s disease often have trouble speaking and writing. It is common for these individuals to repeat themselves, stop abruptly in the middle of a conversation, or have difficulty writing down their thoughts.
- Changes in mood or personality – Confusion, anxiety, and depression are all signs of Alzheimer’s disease. An individual may show drastic changes in mood or no longer seems like him or herself.
Causes and Risk Factors of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease
There are a few risk factors to the development of late onset Alzheimer’s disease, but these are not the same for the early onset form of the disease. Based on current research, the only known risk factor for developing early-onset Alzheimer’s disease is family history.
At Oaks Senior Living, we offer compassionate care for individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Each of our communities provides a specialized memory care neighborhood, Horizons, that supports the needs of individuals living with memory impairments.