Living with dementia at an older age is difficult and devastating. But when dementia is experienced at a younger age it can be profound. It can have a huge effect on your future plans and your current relationships – especially if they involve younger children.
But to understand how to live with younger onset dementia, we first have to understand what it is.
What is younger onset dementia?
There are two terms used for the same diagnosis – younger onset dementia or early onset dementia. These are used when dementia is diagnosed in anyone under the age of 65 but it has been known to occur in people as young as their 30s. According to Dementia Australia, dementia is defined as
“…the term used to describe the symptoms of a large group of illnesses which cause a progressive decline in a person’s mental functioning. It is a broad term which describes symptoms such as loss of memory, intellect, rationality, social skills and normal emotional reactions.”
Because dementia is less common in those that are under 65, it can be more difficult to diagnose. However, dementia amongst the young is on the rise. In fact, recent statistics from Dementia Australia state that:
– In 2019, there is an estimated 27,247 people with younger onset dementia, expected to rise to 29,353 people by 2028 and 41,249 people by 2058
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of younger onset dementia and dementia are the same, and they’re just as easy to miss early on. Memory loss is one of the early warning signs which can be easily mistaken as something that’s just part of life. After all, everybody forgets things from time-to-time or has difficulty finding “that word”. These are expected nuisances which generally get worse as people get older.
Heathdirect.gov.au have some good guidance on what symptoms to look out for. Symptoms of dementia usually occur gradually and over a period of months or years, so it’s important to speak to a doctor if you’re noticing anything different about your own, or a loved one’s behavior.
What treatments and care options are available?
It’s important to get a correct diagnosis as symptoms of treatable disorders such as depression can mimic dementia. However, if all the tests have been carried out and younger onset dementia has been diagnosed, what options do you have?
Whilst there are currently no medications to cure dementia, there are some medications which may reduce the symptoms and delay its progression. Alzheimer’s Australia have some information on these in their “Understanding Younger Onset Dementia” paper.
The care services that young people with dementia need can vary a lot, as its dependent on individual circumstances. One of these options is in-home care which allows the person to continue doing what they’ve always enjoyed in a safe a secure way.
There are a wide range of in-home services available with dementia care which include:
– At-home nursing care
– Personal care
– Respite care
– Domestic support
– Companion care
To find out which is suited to you or your loved one you should (as always) discuss your individual needs and circumstances with a professional. They will then be able to recommend a care plan which promotes independence and well being – both of which are an essential part of younger onset dementia care.