According to the Alzheimer’s Association 5% of the more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease have younger-onset also known as early-onset.
Many of these people are in their 40s and 50s. In the United States an estimate of approximately 200,000 people are diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease.
To receive an accurate diagnosis at this age can be difficult. The medical profession can overlook or rule out Alzheimer’s disease often relating the symptoms to stress, menopause or depression , w hich then leads to misdiagnosis and treatment. It is also very difficult to diagnose because this disease affects each person differently and symptoms can vary.
The Alzheimer’s Association suggest if you are having memory problems to write down symptoms of memory loss or other cognitive difficulties to share with your health care professional. Also, have a comprehensive medical evaluation with a doctor who specializes in Alzheimer’s Disease. This will involve a medical exam and possibly cognitive testing, a neurology exam and/or brain imaging.
Doctors don’t understand why this disease strikes at such a young age in some people. The Alzheimer’s Association says that if there is a family history that doesn’t necessarily mean you will develop the disease yourself. However, research does show that those who have a parent or sibling with Alzheimer’s Disease are more likely to develop the disease.
As a Geriatric Care Manager, I have had the privilege to work with people of all ages living with Alzheimer’s Disease and other dementias. But what I have noticed is that there appears to be more being diagnosed with early-onset. This is very life altering for both the person living with the disease and the family. Often, they still have children living at home, work fulltime, and have a spouse working fulltime. This is just not the way things are supposed to be. There will be grieving and questions as to what changes l ie ahead , but with the diagnosis in place the learning process can begin, and plan s can be put into place. This takes time because no one imagines this could happen to them when they are so young.
Learning everything you can early on is the best advice you can receive. The more you know the more you can preplan for what will lay ahead. Educating your spouse and children/family as much as possible is also very helpful because they will be your caregivers. The best approach to this disease is a team approach. With the right help and guidance, you can get through it.
Contact your local Alzheimer’s Association for a referral and to answer any questions or concerns you may have at 218-303-9549 for the 24/7 Helpline. These people are trained professionals who are a great help.