Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease

Image of Dr. Macie Smith, as she discusses tips for supporting someone living with dementia

By Dr. Macie Smith

Aging expert Dr. Macie Smith explains the warning signs to look for.

As the name implies, early onset Alzheimer’s, sometimes called younger onset Alzheimer’s, occurs in people younger than 65. While it only accounts for 5-10% of all Alzheimer’s cases, it progresses much more rapidly than Alzheimer’s in people over the age of 65. It also has a strong familial connection: Sixty percent of those with early onset Alzheimer’s have a positive family history of Alzheimer’s.

Recognize the Signs

Most of the people diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s experience the same signs and symptoms as older people with the disease. These are marked by a persistent, disabling decline in two or more intellectual abilities such as memory, language, judgment and abstract thinking.

Examples include unusual memory loss, particularly in remembering recent events and the names of people and things, as well as the inability to find the right word. As the disease progresses, people can experience drastic mood swings and become unable to perform complex activities such as driving. Confusion, poor judgment, agitation and withdrawal may also develop. In the latter stages, people forget how to perform simple tasks such as brushing their hair and require full-time care.

Early Detection Is Key

When it comes to Early Onset Alzheimer’s, early detection is critical because of how rapidly the condition progresses. Once diagnosed, a doctor may prescribe medications, such as cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine, which tend to be more effective in the early stages of the disease. These medications may help slow down the progression of memory loss, thinking and reasoning problems, and the loss of day-to-day function. While Alzheimer’s medications don’t cure the disease, they can improve quality of life and help prolong independence.

The other reason early detection and diagnosis is key is that it provides more time for long-term care planning before significant cognitive decline occurs. Connecting with an elder attorney is a great place to start in preparing advanced care directives, such as a living will, a health care power of attorney for medical needs and a durable power of attorney for financial matters. Elder attorneys can offer legal guidance and counseling on preparing for long-term care. 

Making necessary preparations early on ensures that someone with early onset Alzheimer’s has as much control over their life as possible. For more information about SYNERGY HomeCare’s memory care program, visit https://synergyhomecare.com/memory-care/

Dr. Macie P. Smith is a licensed gerontology social worker who is focused on helping families support their aging loved ones through long-term care. Specifically, Dr. Smith educates caregivers on how to care for seniors with dementia. She is an advocate for specialized care and assists others in finding a way to provide a better quality of life for individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Dr. Smith has dedicated over 22 years of her life working in gerontology and assisting families in finding personalized solutions for dementia care. For more articles by Dr. Macie Smith, go to https://synergyhomecare.com/blog/.

Whether your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease or another form of dementia, understanding the disease and identifying the right family caregiver resources and support can leave you feeling overwhelmed and stressed.

Rest assured, SYNERGY HomeCare is here to help you navigate through uncharted waters and create peace of mind in caring for your loved one experiencing dementia or memory loss. 

Download the FREE SYNERGY HomeCare Memory Care Guide, visit the “Resources” section here.

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