Early-Onset Dementia Can Create Unique Challenges

Mid Age Professional croppedWhile dementia and Alzheimer’s disease tend to be associated with older adults, some symptoms can show up as early as the 30s. When they do, it is often considered early-onset dementia. Although Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, diseases such as dementia with Lewy bodies and vascular dementia, can also occur in those under age 65.

A rare number of people may be genetically predisposed to early-onset dementia. In those cases, many family members of multiple generations may be affected, particularly with early-onset Alzheimer’s.

Those with early-onset dementia will forget things, especially newly learned information; they may ask for information to be repeated; they will have difficulty with simple tasks; they may also have vision problems. Younger people with dementia may have more difficulty with balance and mobility.

According to research conducted by the Alzheimer’s Association, it can be challenging to receive a diagnosis for those under age 65. Healthcare providers often don’t look for the disease in younger patients, missing the symptoms and delaying proper treatment.

Because of their age, those with early-onset dementia are often still working, and relying on company health insurance. The disorder may lead to changes in work performance or behavior, which can in turn lead to them leaving the job and much-needed assistance.

The Alzheimer’s Association notes that many of those with early-onset dementia are in poor health and have more serious medical conditions.

To diagnose early-onset dementia, a physician may need to conduct interviews with the patient and with the family (without the patient present). The patient interview should touch on topics such as medical history, risk factors (such as traumatic brain injuries) and a complete medication history. The family may be able to offer insight into the patient’s cognitive and behavioral symptoms.

The physician also may need to conduct a battery of tests, ranging from hearing and vision exams to lab tests to evaluate complete blood count (CBC), serum electrolytes, drug levels, etc. The physician also may use a Functional Activities Questionnaire and an Activities of Daily Living index.

As with age-related dementia, treatment is most successful when the patient is diagnosed early.

Alzheimer’s Association Tools for Assessment https://www.alz.org/national/documents/brochure_toolsforidassesstreat.pdf
Bright Focus Foundation
Early-Onset Dementia a National Challenge, a Future Crisis https://www.alz.org/national/documents/report_earlyonset_summary.pdf
Alzheimer’s Association (UK)

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