When you hear the term Alzheimer’s disease, what images come to mind? Do you picture the disease affecting someone your parents’ or grandparents’ age?
Most Alzheimer’s patients are older, but up to 10 percent of Alzheimer’s cases are under age 65.
The symptoms are the same: repeating statements, misplacing items, difficulties performing daily tasks and, in advanced stages, language difficulties, forgetting who you are and not recognizing family members. In most cases, the reason people develop Alzheimer’s at an early age isn’t known. In rare instances, the early-onset form may be linked to genetics.
Early-onset Alzheimer’s poses a challenge to those it afflicts, including:
- Misdiagnosis. Because you’re younger, you may be mistakenly diagnosed with stress, depression or another psychiatric illness. Avoid misdiagnosis by requesting a thorough diagnostic workup.
- Family issues. You may still have children to raise or maybe you’re caring for an aging parent. You can manage these and other issues by asking family and friends to pitch in or by checking out local respite care services.
- Job troubles. Alzheimer’s symptoms may be mistaken for lack of motivation or diligence and could lead to you being fired—and losing your health insurance. Discuss your options with your company’s employee assistant representative. He or she may be able to help you coordinate community resources and provide financial and legal guidance.
- Lack of services. Many community services like free home meal deliveries, adult day care and transportation may be unavailable to you if you don’t meet the age requirement. Ask about alternative programs, including volunteer groups through your community’s department of social services.
If you think you or a loved one may be suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s, talk with your healthcare provider. Being diagnosed early can help you deal with the condition and prepare for the years to come.