In this article, we discuss the most common and not so common signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s everyone should pay attention to. By acting early enough, we can positively impact the extension of the survival time of the patient.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disorder that causes brain cells to degenerate and die. The condition makes an individual develop severe memory impairment as it progresses, interfering with a person’s independence.
It is one of the most common causes of dementia, which is a condition responsible for the continuous decline in behavior, thinking, and social skills.
Currently, there is no cure for the illness.
People with the disease can, however, benefit from medications and alternative treatment options that seek to slow down the decline rate and improve symptoms. So, how can you or a loved one know that they have Alzheimer’s disease?
Several signs may be an indication of the presence of the disease. Below we will look at some of the signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s.
1. Memory Loss
Almost everyone at some point battles with memory lapses. It is normal to forget something like the name of a person you once met or where you placed your car keys. However, memory loss associated with Alzheimer’s disease is different from the norm. It is usually persistent and becomes worse over time.
Caregivers and people who have this illness report that loss of memory is among the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. This affects how a person behaves at home or in the workplace. There are several things a person who has Alzheimer’s may display like:
- Repeating the same question or statement all the time
- Getting lost in familiar places
- Forgetting appointments, birthdays, and other significant dates
- Routinely misplacing things and putting them in locations that do not make sense. For instance, a person may think that it is right to put their clothes and shoes in the freezer.
- Forgetting the names of relatives and friends
- Getting lost in conversations, etc.
2. Increased Agitation and Aggression
Many people with mild Alzheimer’s tend to become more aggressive and agitated. Agitation is where the individual spends a lot of time worrying and being restless. This may be the cause of sleeplessness, pacing, and aggression because one cannot seem to settle down.
Being aggressive means that the individual might start to lash out verbally even when nothing has triggered this kind of response. The sick person may also want to hit someone. Several factors can lead to such behaviors. These may include:
- Soiling underwear
- Feeling of loss, for example not being able to drive or work anymore
- Medication interaction
- Lack of sleep or rest among many others.
As soon as you identify signs of aggression or agitation do not ignore them because it can escalate to terrible levels. If you can identify the cause, it is important to deal with it right away.
For instance, if too much noise is the cause of aggressiveness, reducing noise pollutants in the sick person’s living space might help. If it is not possible to deal with these new changes at home, consulting a doctor will help you get more practical solutions.
3. Wandering or Getting Lost
Wandering also features prominently as one of the warning signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s. Studies show that 6 in 10 people who have the disease will wander.
Persons with the illness may become disoriented because they cannot remember where they are coming from or their destination. This can make them get lost or wander even on familiar grounds. A couple of factors may contribute to wandering. These include fear, following past routines like going to their favorite store, boredom, or wanting to satisfy basic needs like eating or using the toilet.
Wandering can pose safety issues if a person is not doing it in a controlled, safe environment. Caregivers should, therefore, come up with adequate preventive measures to deal with wandering.
4. Trouble Solving Problems and Planning
It is also common for people who are developing Alzheimer’s to have a hard time planning and problem-solving. A person can easily make plans but ends up not sticking to them. It can also become challenging to complete tasks that were not a problem in the past. These mostly involve detailed projects with lots of numbers.
It is not uncommon to see a person with the illness having trouble balancing checkbooks or keeping up with bills or finances. This, in most cases, may progress to a person not being able to recognize numbers or know how to deal with them. Some people may also have issues in the kitchen where following simple recipes becomes a huge task. Multitasking at this point becomes strenuous because concentration levels may also decline.
5. Communication Problems
Alzheimer’s disease may also affect how a person communicates. As the disease continues to destroy brain cells, the affected individual may lose their ability to understand speech or speak. This is one of the signs that is noticeable during the early stages and it worsens over time.
It becomes harder for a person to process what other people are saying; thus, making it hard to participate fully and comfortably in conversations. When speaking, sentences may be cut short because a person may struggle to remember the right words to articulate. These communication hiccups tend to happen frequently. It is also important to note that most people who have Alzheimer’s will have a problem learning new phrases.
Common expressions and slang become impossible to remember. Some people may even start mixing up the words they should use. For example, you can hear a person saying that they will drive their bed or eat jewelry.
It is also tough for persons with the illness to hold many ideas in their heads at the same time. This means that an individual may jump from one topic to the next without completing what they have to say about a particular topic.
6. Eating Difficulties
As a person grows older, eating may become a problem. These changes may, however, become more pronounced in people who have Alzheimer’s disease reason they feature on the list of alarm signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s.
About 57% of people with the illness experience difficulties while chewing, swallowing, and drinking. This is where you can find a person forgets to put food in their mouth, chew or swallow it. Some may chew but not swallow.
Others will fill their mouths wanting to eat at record speed, while some people with the illness will have a hard time swallowing the medicine, and so forth.
These problems come about because of the changes happening in the brain, as well as environmental changes like too much noise and clutter in the dining area. There are numerous risks involved with this like:
- Aspiration (food traveling the wrong way to the lungs)
- Reduced quality of life quality
- Poor nutrition
7. Social Isolation
Alzheimer’s disease can be a lonely illness. At the onset of the disease, most people will want to pull out from their social circles because they lack interest in things and people they loved.
Many people just want to stay by themselves without any disturbance from others. In some cases, the people will the illness feel embarrassed about the new changes happening in their lives. Others feel like they are becoming a bother to their family and friends, especially when they need a hand completing various daily activities. This makes them avoid social situations where they may be forced to give up on hobbies that involve interactions with others.
People close to the person with the disease should not let this happen. Loneliness is one of the things that may lead to depression and other medical conditions, making it difficult to cope with Alzheimer’s. Encouraging the sick individual to seek help from support groups and people they love can help deal with withdrawal.
8. Poor Judgment
Impaired judgment is among the signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s. Some experts reckon that it may, at times, precede memory loss. This is where a person’s ability to make the proper decision is compromised. People with the disease may find themselves in situations where they can no longer evaluate different factors that they should consider to make a sound decision.
Predicting the outcome of a choice made or behavior may also become challenging. When it comes to poor judgment in Alzheimer’s, it is not all about making a single questionable decision. Instead, it is a clear pattern of inappropriate actions or decisions.
An example of this is someone who was very careful with money in the past now starts to use their money aimlessly. They can go shopping for things they do not even need or start giving away money to strangers. A percentage of people can even start to withhold money that they should pay to companies that genuinely offer them services because they think that the receiver of the payment is no longer trustworthy. An example is a person refusing to pay their gas or electricity bill.
9. Vision and Spatial Issues
Many people with Alzheimer’s disease also start to experience issues with vision and spatial awareness during the early stages. The most common vision problems make it difficult for a person to judge the correct distance between objects. This is one of the reasons most people with the illness cannot drive because they can easily cause accidents. Other than vision problems, it may also become challenging to tell colors apart. Other visual problems that people with Alzheimer’s experience include:
Reduced ability to detect movement
Persons in this state will view the world as still photos instead of an ongoing video like “normal” people do. This makes it difficult to engage in activities that involve quick motion.
Detecting gradients of color becomes difficult for people who have Alzheimer’s. This makes it challenging to pick out objects that are in uniform color. For instance, an individual may have a hard time finding a toilet in a washroom where the walls, floor, and toilet are blue.
Reduced peripheral vision
This is where a person’s field of vision dramatically narrows so that they cannot see either side while gazing forward. A person in such a state tends to bump into things continually and becomes disoriented.
10. Increased Confusion
This is another sign that can let you know a person is starting to develop Alzheimer’s. It can get so bad to the extent that a person is not able to tell the time, date, month, or year. This can also be accompanied by a person forgetting where they live as they deal with time perception problems. For a person with this illness, 10 minutes might seem like a decade.
This means that a wife might think that their spouse has gone to the shops for years or they have not seen their grandkids in forever. Some people may even start to forget relationships during the initial stages of the disease. Other individuals may at times be unable to identify their location or have little memory as to how they got to the place.
11. Personality and Mood Changes
A person who is developing Alzheimer’s disease may go through sessions of extreme mood swings and changes in personality. This is where an individual may showcase feelings of depression, suspicion, fearfulness, and anxiety.
Most people usually get irritated if something small happens out of their routines. It may come out in various settings, including at home, in the office, or in unfamiliar locations. The changes can escalate aggression where the affected individuals may want to harm others when they are highly irritable. A person may try to hit others around them because they feel like they are the cause or do not understand the new changes that are happening in their bodies.
12. Time and location confused
One of the most common signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s is time and location confusion. When speaking of the former, it is not just about the hour of the day; a person that might have Alzheimer’s disease also starts to have an issue with keeping up with days, weeks, heck, even time of the year. On the other hand, they become unfamiliar with the location they are at or do not remember how they got there. If this happens once or twice, do not panic. However, if it keeps on happening (daily), you better take your loved one to see a specialist ASAP.
As people grow older one of the fears many have is developing Alzheimer’s disease. A person may experience one or more of the early signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s.
When this happens, do not ignore it as a normal part of aging. Instead, head to the doctors’ office to get a proper diagnosis. Even though the disease does not have a cure, early diagnosis typically translates to beginning treatment. This gives individuals a chance to maintain independence for more extended periods. It also gives people a chance to have a voice in planning various aspects of their future.