Identifying Signs of Early-Onset Dementia

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“Dementia” is a term that is often associated with Alzheimer’s disease. However, dementia is a general term describing a range of symptoms a person can experience, and it is not always related to Alzheimer’s.

Early-onset dementia is generally defined as dementia affecting people younger than 65. While dementia can be a caused by Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important to get a thorough cognitive and physical examination by a medical professional to determine if it is Alzheimer’s or something else causing the symptoms. If it turns out that a person’s dementia isn’t caused by Alzheimer’s, there may be treatments that can help alleviate some or all of these symptoms.

How do you determine if someone is suffering from dementia in the first place? Here are some the most common symptoms associated with dementia.

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Difficulty Remembering Things

Memory loss is the one symptom that most people associate with having dementia. This is because this condition does cause lapses in memory. Since just about everyone has this happen every now and then, it’s best to avoid jumping to conclusions based on a few incidents. Instead, look for a pattern of memory loss such as a person forgetting what they said and repeating the same thing a short time later. Occasional forgetfulness is normal, but repeated instances throughout the day is a red flag.

Difficulty Understanding Things

Following simple instructions or directions can become a frustrating issue for someone with dementia; as hard as they try, the information flows into their brain and quickly dissipates. For some, however, it may be a case of simple mental fatigue or brain fog, which can make it hard to concentrate. In that case, remedies designed to boost brain clarity and focus are one possible solution.

Communicating Becomes Challenging

People who were once good at holding conversations and writing down their thoughts and ideas now struggle to remember certain words. The words may be simple or complex – it doesn’t matter. They can no longer remember how to use those words to form complete sentences. So, they may start substituting other words in their place – words that don’t necessarily make sense in the context. Likewise, they may struggle to understand what others are saying.

Confusion and Disorientation

Sometimes a person with dementia becomes confused as to where they are and what they are doing. One moment they can be clear-minded and purposeful, but they can suddenly become disoriented, and that can be a scary situation for them and those who care about them.

Decision Making Becomes Harder

It’s easy to take the ability to make decisions for granted. That’s why it’s such a red flag when you notice someone isn’t able to make up their mind about the simplest things. For example, a casually dressed person with dementia may spend countless minutes staring at their collection of shoes, unable to decide if slippers, athletic or dress shoes are appropriate for their outfit.

Elderly couple working on a crossword puzzle together

Changes in Behavior, Mood and Personality

Look for changes in how the person behaves, especially if that behavior seems particularly “off” for them. Subtle changes in their general mood may also be noticeable. They may even start acting like a totally different person than you know them to be.

Apathy and Depression

On the subject of mood changes, early-onset dementia can be traumatizing to the person struggling with it, and this can lead to apathy. The person may experience uncharacteristic bouts of depression.

If you have a loved one of any age who is regularly experiencing one or more of the above symptoms, they should see their doctor for evaluation as soon as possible.

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