When we hear of someone living with a dementia, it is often assumed to be someone in their later years but estimates state that there are around 42,000 younger people under 65 who are also affected with the disease in the UK. Although the symptoms can be similar, their lives are often very different to those that are elderly. The signs may be ignored for some time, attributing them to other things.
Younger people are often much fitter and will often notice difficulty with coordination and balance first; they may put forgetfulness down to stress or, in the case of women, the menopause. They may experience mood or personality changes like reduced empathy with others. Family and friends are often extremely useful in helping attain the correct diagnosis in that they will often be the first to notice that things are not quite right, errors at work may become more frequent or close relationships suffer.
The most common type of early-onset dementia is Alzheimer’s disease which particularly affects vision, speech and behaviour. This type of dementia is very often inherited and symptoms can develop as early as in someone’s 30s. Frontotemporal dementia is another fairly common inherited form in younger people and although it often occurs in a slightly later age (around 45-65 years), it is more likely to affect someone’s behaviour.
Younger people with early-onset dementia are more likely to be in work and have work/family commitments; they may also have older parents to care for who are possibly likely to have the disease themselves, thus their needs are likely to be far more complicated and will involve help in a range of areas.
Keeping the mind and body stimulated is even more important in younger people with a dementia and doing quizzes and puzzles that invigorate the brain are highly recommended by experts. Likewise, keeping the body fit and supple is equally important. Friends and family can be instrumental in encouraging their loved ones to do these beneficial activities on a regular basis and help to make it fun and enjoyable.
Games that incorporate numeracy can be ideal to help keep those skills alive. Activities to Share offer great activities for younger people with dementia. One that can help players practice mathematics combined with gentle exercise is the Number Floor Mat – just throw the bean bags onto the numbered squares and then pick a card to answer the numeracy-based question. Or why not have a game of darts? Our Magnetic Dart Board is great to play traditional darts – safely, and practices subtraction skills while you play!
For more help and information on early-onset dementia, go to the Alzheimer’s Society website www.alzheimers.org.uk
or click here.