Many people associate dementia with the elderly, particularly those who are in their 70s, 80s and 90s. However, it is possible to develop dementia much earlier than this and there are increasingly more people in their twenties, thirties and forties who are being diagnosed with some form of the disease.
Early onset, working age or young onset dementia as it is known, usually affects people who are between 30 and 65. Research back in 2014 by The Alzheimer’s Society estimated that there were then over 42,000 people under the age of 65 who were diagnosed with this type of dementia (approximately 5% of all people living with the disease). As time moves on, this number is increasing and, due to the difficulty of diagnosing the condition which may in some cases be attributed to other medical conditions, such as depression or anxiety, there could be up to 10% of the total number of people with dementia, currently over affected by young onset dementia .
There are over 100 types of dementia, Alzheimers being the most common one. However, vascular dementia is the second most common form of dementia in younger people. The Alzheimer’s Society research shows that around 15 per cent of per cent of dementia in younger people is believed to be vascular dementia.
Vascular dementia can cause memory loss and difficulties with thinking and language. Symptoms occur when the brain is damage because of problems with blood supply to the brain.
It can be caused by the narrowing of the blood vessels inside the brain, or a stroke, which causes the blood supply to the brain to be cut off, usually as a result of a blood clot.
- Partly due to the stigma attached to dementia and the belief that it only affects older people means that they can be very reluctant to accept there is anything wrong when they are otherwise fit and well, and they may delay visiting their G.P.
- People with young onset dementia are more likely to be diagnosed with rarer forms of dementia such as dementia with Lewy bodies, and are more likely to have a genetically inherited form of dementia.
- Prevalence rates for young onset dementia in black and minority ethnic groups are higher than for the population as a whole. People from BAME backgrounds are less likely to receive a diagnosis or support.
- People with a learning disability are at greater risk of developing dementia at a younger age. Studies have shown that one in ten people with a learning disability develop young onset Alzheimer’s disease between the age of 50 to 65. The number of people with Down’s syndrome who develop Alzheimer’s disease is even greater with one in 50 developing the condition aged 30-39, one in ten aged 40-49 and one in three people with Down’s syndrome will have Alzheimer’s in their 50s.
- Although younger people experience similar symptoms to older people with dementia, the impact on their lives is much greater. Younger people are more likely to still be working when they are diagnosed. Many will have significant financial commitments such as a mortgage. They often have children to care for and dependent parents too.
- Their lives tend to be more active and they have hopes, dreams and ambitions to fulfil up to and beyond their retirement.
Symptoms may include the following:
Struggling to remember things that happened recently, even though you can easily remember things from longer ago
Forgetting the names of people or things
Difficulty completing familiar tasks
Feeling confused even in a familiar place
Having trouble remembering the day or date
Struggling to follow conversations, particularly in groups.
If you are worried about experiencing the above symptoms, early diagnosis means you can receive help in order to continue to live well with dementia.