We all understand that dementia is a decline in mental ability, and it’s an illness we traditionally associate with older people. But recently, there has been an increasing focus on young onset dementia. What is it, what are the signs and can be it be treated?

Dementia is considered ‘young onset’ when it affects someone under the age of 65. It is also referred to as ‘early onset’ or ‘working age’ dementia. That said, services around people with dementia are being reorganised to recognise the impact of the condition, and not the person’s age.

What are the signs of young onset dementia?

Dementias that affect younger people can be difficult to diagnose. It can be a case of people being reluctant to accept that there’s something wrong, especially when they’re physically fit and healthy.

Symptoms will vary depending on the type of dementia, but noticeable signs may include:

  • Memory loss that starts to affect everyday life, especially forgetting recently learned information. Another sign is asking the same things over and over, relying increasingly on memory aides around the house.
  • Difficulty solving everyday problems. It could be the inability to follow a familiar recipe or keeping track of spending.
  • Difficulty completing tasks such as driving or walking to a familiar location or remembering how to play a game. In other words, difficulties in completing things they have done for a long time.
  • Vision problems can also be a sign of early onset dementia or losing spatial awareness when driving.
  • Speech can be affected and writing too. Having trouble joining in a conversation or stopping mid-sentence, unsure what it is they are saying or what they want to say next.
  • Misplacing items and not being able to find them again. It’s not uncommon for loved ones to notice things being left in ‘strange’ places. Not being able to retrace their steps or remember where they put something can even lead to accusations of theft.
  • Changes in mood and personality can result in someone who was once laid back and affable becoming suspicious and tense of those around them, or fearful and anxious. A constant feeling of being out of their comfort zone can lead to someone easily becoming upset.

Diagnosing early onset dementia

People often feel uncomfortable or nervous about talking to their GP, especially about something like dementia. There are other reasons why you may be ‘forgetful’ or anxious of course, but early diagnosis means you get the right support as well as access to treatment and therapies.

Treatment for early onset dementia

There are treatments available that can alleviate some of the symptoms of some dementias.  Research into dementia, why it happens and how we can best prevent it, is ongoing and we are learning new ways of preventing and ‘treating’ dementia. As yet, there is no cure, but there are options to explore to help manage symptoms.

From changes in diet to regular exercise and improving your sleep pattern, there are many ways in which your GP and local dementia network can support you with a young onset dementia diagnosis and help you live life to the full.