Younger people with dementia
The onset of the disease
Although the majority of people with Alzheimer’s disease are over 65 years of age, there are some who are younger. Other forms of dementia can also affect younger people, e.g. AIDS related dementia or Pick’s disease. Younger people may experience additional problems to those experienced by older people.
The person’s reaction and behaviour
Younger people with dementia are often more aware that there is something wrong, perhaps because they have higher expectations of their abilities and capacities. Consequently, they may be more inclined to feel powerless and frustrated. They also tend to be more physically fit and active. This can make it particularly difficult to handle wandering and aggressive behaviour. They may be more unwilling to give up driving as it is their last sign of independence.
Family and friends
If the person has a family and children, they may need to make arrangements for the future. Young sufferers are more likely to have younger children who may have difficulty understanding what is happening and need reassuring that they are not to blame for the disease. They will eventually lose the support of at least one parent and could start to have difficulties at school. Some become aggressive towards the affected parent, others become a kind of carer of the carer.
Parents of the person with dementia might have difficulty accepting the diagnosis. They might experience feelings of guilt and a sense that they should have been affected by the disease not their child. If they outlive the person with dementia, they may have a complicated grief reaction and might benefit from bereavement counselling or grief therapy. Members of the extended family might not react well when informed of the disease and this could create tension within the family. If friends and relatives are not supportive, it could be due to their problem accepting the diagnosis, shock and a feeling of helplessness.
Employment and finances
If the person with dementia is young there is an increased likelihood that they will have to change or leave their job. This could lead to a double loss of income if their partner has to leave their job to look after them. It is important to try to make sure that an employer is aware of the disease so that the person is not sacked for incompetence as this might affect pension rights and benefits. It can be particularly difficult to stay at home and do nothing whilst still active and energetic. It might also be demoralising in the sense that loss of job may lead to a loss of social and financial status.
Younger people with dementia often have the problem of not fitting into a specific category. It is sometimes a case of having to choose from amongst a range of services which may have been set up with other needs or age groups in mind. It would be worth finding out from your Alzheimer’s organisation whether services or support groups exist in your area for younger people with dementia.
Last Updated: Thursday 06 August 2009