Updated: Friday, 18 Jan 2013, 6:24 PM EST
Published : Friday, 18 Jan 2013, 6:23 PM EST
(WTNH) -- Some doctors are seeing an increase in the number of younger patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's.
There are no hard statistics on this but Dr. Raj Tampi, a leading expert is concerned enough to talk about what he is hearing from colleagues and what he is seeing among his own patients.
Severe cognitive and memory loss are symptoms of Alzheimer's Disease which can strike as people grow older but early onset Alzheimer's is now a growing concern.
"Clinicians who take care of patients with Alzheimer's Disease is that there is an increasing number of younger patients that we're seeing with Alzheimer's Disease," said Dr. Tampi.
Dr. Tampi is a geriatric psychiatrist at Masonicare Health Center and a well known specialist on dementia.
"Now in patients with early onset disease, these people have the exact same symptoms as you would get in the late onset but they're getting much younger," said Dr. Tampi.
That's reality for Johelia Montalvo.
"She doesn't even recognize me," said Montalvo.
Her mother was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers in her mid 50's among a small number of families with a genetic link.
"Her mother, her grandmother, two of her aunts," said Montalvo.
The signs were subtle, some amid conversation.
"What are you doing? I'm going to cook. What are you going to cook? She would tell me, I'm going to cook whatever and I would look around and there was nothing there," said Montalvo.
"The issue is that these patients are more physically healthy but are more impaired cognitively. They maybe behaviorally more challenged so taking care of these patients is quite difficult," said Dr. Tampi.
There's also the issue of misdiagnosis with patients initially being treated for a psychiatric disorder.
"So it's like the tip of the iceberg. You're seeing the depression but what is really happening is the underlying dementia and the depression is that first sign that the patient is actually having brain changes, leading onto dementia," said Dr. Tampi.
Johelia's mother is being treated at Masonicare.
"I just sit with her and I talk to her," said Montalvo.
What matters most to the family is that she is still with them.
"She was my mother. Now she is my older child. That's how it is," said Montalvo.