What is young onset dementia?
Dementia is considered ‘young onset’ when it affects people under 65 years of age. It is also referred to as ‘early onset’ or ‘working age’ dementia. However this is an arbitary age distinction which is becoming less relevant as increasingly services are realigned to focus on the person and the impact of the condition, not the age.
Dementia is a degeneration of the brain that causes a progressive decline in people’s ability to think, reason, communicate and remember. Their personality, behaviour and mood can also be affected. Everyone's experience of dementia is unique and the progression of the condition varies. Some symptoms are more likely to occur with certain types of dementia.
Dementias that affect younger people can be rare and difficult to recognise. People can also be very reluctant to accept there is anything wrong when they are otherwise fit and well, and they may put off visiting their doctor.
I like to push things, do things that are scary - it makes me realise how alive I am.
- Ken, diagnosed in his mid-50s with Alzheimer's disease
The impact for younger people and their families
Although younger people experience similar symptoms to older people with dementia, the impact on their lives is significantly different. 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 fulfill, up to and beyond their retirement.