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What is Early-Onset Alzheimer’s and – can I Inherit it?

Posted Sep 24 2010 8:36pm

Only a small number of the national average of Alzheimer’s patients suffer from Early-Onset Alzheimer’s.  Unlike most Alzheimer’s symptoms which usually occur after the age of 65, early-onset Alzheimer symptoms generally begin while the patient is in their 50′s. A small number of sufferers show symptoms in their 30′s or 40′s.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s is caused by a different set of genes than the single gene which can cause Alzheimer’s in the elderly. So often, it does run in families. People who show symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer’s often have other close relatives with the disease as well; a parent, or grandparent. If there is someone in your family with early-onset Alzheimer’s, you might choose to be tested at an early age. Early diagnosis is key with any Alzheimer’s. There are medications which can slow symptoms, so the earlier you are diagnosed, the sooner you can begin medication to delay any symptoms.

The symptoms are the same for the early-onset sufferer but occur at a much younger age than regular Alzheimer’s.  This presents a different set of problems for the young person than an elderly patient who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s at a later time in their life.

Someone in their mid 50′s may still have:

  • Aging parents to care for / Who may have Alzheimer’s themselves or other elder needs
  • Young children or teenagers at home / Possible young adults requiring college funding
  • Debts and Employers to cope with /Loss of income could mean a financial crisis
  • An intimate relationship with a spouse / Who may be trading a romantic life for one of care-giving the spouse

An obstacle for the youthful sufferer is that diagnosis is often delayed. As the elder patient’s symptoms may be ignored and considered “signs of aging,” the younger, early-onset patient’s symptoms may be ignored and considered signs of “laziness or lack of motivation.”

An early, correct diagnosis is important. There are many medications used to delay symptoms of Alzheimer’s. With early-onset Alzheimer’s you certainly want to be diagnosed early and given medication as soon as possible. Plus, there are some dementia’s that are reversible, and an early diagnosis would discover those which may improve with treatment.

An early diagnosis will also help in coping with current responsibilities and planning ahead. You might be able to arrange a lighter or different work schedule, maybe doing some of your work at home. Your family will have time to adjust and accept their own feelings about the diagnosis, giving them time to learn about your illness and the compassion you require as you cope with such unwanted circumstances.

Whether the Alzheimer’s is early-onset or elderly dementia, being educated about what to expect in the future is most important. You can take action; join a Support Group, call your local Alzheimer’s Association and learn about all the services available to you. Read books and learn all the unique ways you can adapt to your situation. Share your thoughts and ideas with family and friends. Keep them involved in your progress. Loved ones often want to share but may be hesitant to offer assistance. Invite their comments!

One Family’s Touching Journey into

Early Onset Alzheimer’s

by  Pat Moffett

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