We have good reason to view dementia and Alzheimer's Disease as something to dread when we're very old. Perhaps our grandparents or great grandparents had it, or if we're middle-aged, perhaps we're seeing signs in our own parents.
EmpowHer's Encyclopedia describes dementia as "the name given to a group of neurological disorders that progressively deteriorate the ability of the brain to function normally. In order to be diagnosed with dementia, there must be:
* A disturbance in memory
Alzheimer's Disease is the most common (and one of the most researched) forms of dementia and is commonly seen in people over the age of 70. Up to half of all people over the age of 85 have some sort of dementia.
Signs and symptoms include
Symptoms of dementia generally come on gradually. They often begin mildly and progress over time. Symptoms vary according to the cause of the dementia, but often include:
◦Increasing trouble remembering things, such as:
■How to get to familiar locations
■The names of friends, family members
■Where common objects are usually kept
■How to perform usual tasks, such as cooking, dressing, bathing, etc.
■How to drive
◦Trouble concentrating on tasks
◦Trouble completing sentences, due to lost/forgotten words (This may progress to complete inability to speak.)
◦Inability to remember the date, time of day, season
◦Getting lost in familiar surroundings
◦Withdrawal, loss of interest in usual activities
◦Slow, shuffling walk
◦Slowness and then loss of purposeful movement
But dementia is also seen in younger people. In my healthcare career, I worked with Alzheimer patients in their 50s, who were showing clear signs of the disease in their 40s.
And right now, a documentary is being made about a British teenager who is battling dementia, at the age of 12.
Isobel Jeffrey has been showing signs of dementia since she was 9 years old and her mother is currently cycling from London to Paris in a bid to raise awareness for early onset dementia and to raise funds for research. Isobel now requires round the clock care and has difficulty remembering recent events or names and has hallucinations.
Her dementia is considered similar to Niemann-Pick Disease Type C which is seen in children around the ages of 4 to 10 and shows symptoms similar to dementia. There are currently about 500 children worldwide with Niemann-Pick Type C but experts believe the numbers to be a lot higher, but undiagnosed.
Early onset dementia is considered so if symptoms occur before the age of 65. Up to 10% of people with Alzheimer's show signs before age 65 which is about 200,000 people in the United States - so early onset dementia is certainly not rare. There is a family link with Alzheimer's but also a tendency to misdiagnose, especially if the person is in her 60s or younger. There is a genetic test available to see if a person is a likely candidate for the disease.
Early intervention is critical, especially in a younger person who may still be raising children or taking care of older parents, as well as still working. There are medications available to slow symptoms and a plan of care needs to be implemented quickly so that employers and children can be made aware of issues that may arise.
For more on the Isobel Jeffrey story, click for her mother's link here:
And for more on Alzheimer's Disease, click here : http://www.empowher.com/condition/alzheimers-disease
Have you or a loved one experienced early onset dementia or early onset Alzheimer's Disease? How did you (or they) cope?