A common misunderstanding

Dementia can be a scary word, especially when you don’t know exactly what it is.

Put simply, the word dementia describes a set of symptoms that can include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem solving or language. Dementia is caused when certain diseases damage our brains. The most common, and probably the one you have heard of is, Alzheimer’s disease. 

There is often confusion about the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia. It is Alzheimer’s disease that has damaged the brain and resulted in the symptoms known as dementia. Currently, Alzheimer’s affects more than 520,000 people in the UK.

Early onset Alzheimer's and dementia effects people younger than the age of 65. Although much more rare, it now effects as many as 40,000 younger people in the UK.

The two most common forms of dementia in younger people are Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia.

Around one-third of younger people with dementia have Alzheimer’s disease. Some people will have a history of young-onset Alzheimer’s in their family. Around 20% of younger people with dementia have vascular dementia.

There is very little understanding of the needs of people who develop dementia at an early age and this can make it very difficult for younger people to access adequate support. A service set up for people of a different generation is highly unlikely to meet the needs of younger people and so; these people often require specialist services.

The number of specialist services is growing and there is increasingly more help out there.

The Alzheimer’s Society can put younger people with dementia, their families or carers in contact with others in their local areas, or in similar circumstances. They also host an online discussion group called Talking Point, which has a dedicated group for younger people. To join the discussion, go to http://forum.alzheimers.org.uk/