A person suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's disease likely does not look like the average Alzheimer's patient. The average Alzheimer's sufferer in America is a woman in her 70s, whose disease has a relatively slow onset and symptoms that reflect memory loss.
However, early-onset Alzheimer's is different, affecting the middle-aged populace with symptoms that don't necessarily have anything to do with memory loss. According to the Mayo Clinic, 200,000 Americans suffer from it, so how can you tell if you are among them?
Stealing or Breaking the Law
Behavioral changes in older adults should always be cause for concern. If behavioral patterns have changed drastically, and a previously well-behaved adult starts behaving dangerously or erratically, it could be a sign of Frontotemporal Dementia, the most common brain-damaging disease that strikes people under age 60, affecting their ability to make decisions and determine right from wrong.
If you or a loved one are falling frequently, tell your doctor as it could be a sign of a cognitive problem. In a recent study of 125 people sampled, those that fell often had correlating brain scans for early-onset Alzheimer's disease.
Forgetting What Objects Are For
There's a difference between not remembering where you put your keys and not remembering what a key is used for. If you're having problems remembering the function of objects or where things go, it is time to talk to a doctor.
Eating Inappropriate Things
Some patients of early-onset Alzheimer's have been reported to eat inanimate objects, such as paper or other inedible things, prior to their diagnosis. Also, people diagnosed with Alzheimer's generally consume more calories and are hungrier than non-sufferers, and still they tend to lose weight. Both of these could be related to decreased brain function; the brain receives hunger signals and isn't sure how to process them.
Not Able to Recognize Sarcasm
Sarcasm can sometimes be hard to pick up on, but if you find yourself constantly missing out on humor and sarcasm that others are picking up on, this could be a warning sign of brain atrophy. In diseases such as early-onset Alzheimer's and Frontotemporal Dementia, the brain’s posterior hippocampus is affected, which is where short-term memory is stored, and where one would sort out such things as sarcasm.
A change in mental health later in life is another symptom of early-onset Alzheimer's disease. If you have never suffered from clinical depression in your young adult life, but develop depression later in life, this could be an alerting factor. This doesn't mean that every person diagnosed with depression later in life will suffer from Alzheimer's, but it does make someone three times more likely to have an Alzheimer's-related disease. Get treatment for depression as soon as possible because it is speculated that the hormones released during depression can actually damage parts of the brain.
With early-onset Alzheimer's, the function of the brain is compromised, meaning your ability to recall facts, memories and information is compromised, the brain becoming all around unfocused. So staring in a detached way might be an early sign of a compromised brain.
These symptoms could signal early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease, but they might also be the signs of other underlying conditions. A trained neurologist can easily diagnose Alzheimer’s or other dementias, so talk to your doctor if you have worrying signs so that you can begin treatment. If diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's, having a care provider in your home could help you feel safe and comfortable. American In-Home Care always refers qualified, credentialed, insured and screened care providers that can help with a variety of services including Alzheimer's and Dementia Care. Contact us today at 1-844-505-0004 to schedule your free in-home assessment.
Adapted From: Andrea Atkins, "7 Surprising Early Signs of Alzheimer's Disease." Next Avenue. Oct. 2015.