Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia typically affect people who are considered “elderly” at age 65 or over. Yet many people under age 65 are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia each year.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “up to five percent of the more than five million Americans with Alzheimer’s have younger-onset.” These are typically people in their 40s and 50s.
Just like Alzheimer’s in people over age 65, the cause can be genetic or unknown.
And the symptoms for early onset dementia are the same as at any age, but are more likely to be excused as stress or some other issue. Forgetfulness, difficulty planning or organizing, misplacing objects are common signs of the early stages of dementia. There are typically three stages—early, middle and late—that can span a few years to two decades.
The Alzheimer’s Association notes that, “It’s also not uncommon to be told your symptoms may be related to stress, menopause, or depression. This can lead to misdiagnosis (sometimes multiple times) and incorrect treatment.
Anecdotally, it seems that many of those diagnosed with early onset dementia experience a quicker progression of the disease. However, it is possible that they did not get correctly diagnosed or symptoms were ignored because of their age so that they were in early stages long before a diagnosis.
According to the Mayo Clinic, an accurate diagnosis is critical for a few reasons. For one, it could be a reversible type of dementia or some other issue. If it is dementia, for which there is currently no cure, a correct diagnosis can help with getting the best treatment and planning for yourself and your family.
For dementias that are not reversible, people can still live full lives after a diagnosis continuing to work, drive, travel, and spend time with loved ones. Perhaps there will be a lighter workload, join a support group, or change your purpose and how you spend your time.
Once you receive a diagnosis, there are many considerations such as telling an employer, making financial and legal decisions, talking with children, determining if you will need professional in-home care in addition to family help and more.
The Alzheimer’s Association provides detailed information about different types of benefits and insurance to consider. The Mayo Clinic website also has links to numerous resources for those living with dementia.
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