While dementia is generally regarded as an illness of old age it can affect younger people in their 40s and 50s and very rarely at an even younger age. Younger people are more likely to suffer from one of the rarer forms of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is only diagnosed in one out of three cases of young onset dementia. Hence it is important that they and their families receive an accurate diagnosis of their condition.
While the younger person with dementia will have many of the same problems as an older person they and their families may also need specialist help and advice. Younger people are more likely to be in work at the time of diagnosis and may have heavy financial commitments. They may have a young family who are dependent on them. They will be physically stronger than an older person with dementia and may be more disturbed by their illness. It is particularly distressing for a younger person to recieve a diagnosis of dementia and very difficult for them and their family to come to terms with the diagnosis.
It should be noted that every person with dementia is an individual and will be affected in different ways. Some people with dementia may never experience all of the symptoms described above, whilst others may experience problems that have not been mentioned. Similarly, the pattern and course of the illness will vary from one person to the next, according to such factors as the type of dementing illness diagnosed, the age of onset of memory loss and confusion, and the physical health of the person with dementia. Even though conditions, such as Alzheimer's disease and Vascular Dementia cannot be 'cured', there is much that can be done to lessen the severity of symptoms and to improve the quality of life of those suffering from these illnesses. There is also much that can be done to improve the quality of life for carers and this publication is intended to help explain which specialist services exist to support the carer at a practical, social and emotional level.