While Alzheimer’s is typically noted in people 65 and older, it is possible to see symptoms in people 50 or even younger.
This is referred to as early onset, and it is estimated approximately 200,000 in the U.S have early onset Alzheimer’s.
Who Gets Early Onset Alzheimer’s?
While Alzheimer’s is still being studied, many scientists believe early onset often runs in families and may be due to rare genes that get passed from generation to generation. People who inherit these rare genes tend to develop symptoms in their 50s and even as young as 35.
When two or more people in a family have Alzheimer’s disease it is known as familial Alzheimer’s disease. About 25% of all Alzheimer disease is familial and when Alzheimer disease starts before 60 or 65 years of age about 60% of those cases are familial. (Source National Institutes of Health)
How is Early Onset Diagnosed?
To date, there is no one test a doctor can perform to confirm an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Your doctor will get your full medical history, including symptoms such as especially memory loss. Expect to take tests that check your memory and see how well you solve problems. Your doctor may ask you about work or home related stress and medications you are taking, as these can sometimes produce Alzheimer’s like symptoms.
Imaging tests that detect changes in your brain such as a CT Scan or MRI may be ordered to help rule out other causes of your symptoms.
What To Do Now?
If your doctor suspects early onset Alzheimer’s they may prescribe medications or other interventions to help with memory loss. Make sure to talk to your doctor and ask questions so you, and your family, know what to expect and begin planning for the future – including making important financial decisions.
The Alzheimer’s Association, the Alzheimer’s Foundation and other resources offer a wealth of information. Topics including An Introduction to Caregiving and online message boards where you can connect with others in the same situation, ask questions, share your feelings or find local support groups.
Don’t be afraid to reach out. Staying connected can help alleviate feelings of being alone or overwhelmed that so many face.
If You Need Alzheimer’s Residential Care
As the disease progresses many caregivers find residential care becomes necessary for the safety and care of their loved one. While this is a very difficult decision to make, we encourage you to not wait until a crisis situation, such as a fall or an episode of wandering, to discuss the option.
Facilities such as the Memory Center are exclusively designed for those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Every detail of color, texture, lighting and space is designed to address the primary environmental objectives recommended by The Alzheimer’s Association including “an indoor space that allows for freedom of movement and promotes independence,” while offering “safe and secure outdoor areas” including our courtyard and walking trails.
Our residents do not spend their days in a dark room or alone in front of the television. Each day at The Memory Center includes programming designed stimulate the mind and body while encouraging social interaction and easing agitation.