Why do people tend to think that dementia doesn’t affect younger people?
There is a perception that dementia is part of aging and only affects people who are elderly. People are much less aware that dementia can affect younger people too.
It is a relatively uncommon condition and historically much less attention has been given to people affected at a young age. We are trying to change people’s understanding of dementia so they are aware that it can, and does, affect people of all ages.
How many young people in the UK (under the age of 65) currently have dementia?
In 2014, it was estimated that there were 42,325 people in the UK who were living with a diagnosis of young onset dementia, which represented about 5% of the total number of people living with the condition. However, young onset dementia can be difficult to diagnose and many people are either misdiagnosed, or are living undiagnosed with the condition.
We therefore believe the actual number of people living with young onset is considerably higher.
Why is it so important to raise awareness of the fact that dementia can affect the young?
We need GPs and medical practitioners to be more aware of the signs and symptoms so that younger people can get an accurate and timely diagnosis. Employers need to be aware so support can be set in place for people with a diagnosis who are still working, and for their family members so they can remain in work for as long as is possible.
Schools need to understand the impact having a parent with dementia can have on children. There are very few dementia services specifically for younger people. We need local and national government to be aware so that age appropriate support services are established, so younger people aren’t forced to access services designed for people decades older than they are.
Young onset dementia is an area that needs much more research and considerably more funding. Raising awareness will lead to greater understanding of the very different impacts dementia has when you are diagnosed in the prime of life. With greater public awareness will come less stigma and a greater understanding that life doesn’t stop when you receive a dementia diagnosis.