One of the chief reasons why stigma is rife when it comes to dementia (or any medical condition in general) is misinformation and misconception. Young onset dementia is even more misunderstood than its bigger umbrella term, resulting in many inaccurate notions about the condition which can affect the individual’s level of care. We dispel some of the more common myths about young onset dementia and hopefully shed enough light on it to allow you to reframe your idea of the condition.
Myth: Young onset dementia is the same as late onset dementia
Young onset dementia conventionally includes patients with onset before 65 years of age. While the neuropathological processes involved are by and large similar, studies have noted certain differences. Young onset dementia may have a faster progression than late onset dementia, and persons with young onset dementia tend to have a higher prevalence of language impairment and other non-memory symptoms, which is why treatment should be started as soon as the dementia is diagnosed.
Myth: Young onset dementia is easier to handle than late onset dementia
According to a 2017 study by science journal Neurologia, while participants with young onset Alzheimer’s Disease experienced less memory impairment, they fared worse and scored lower on writing tasks compared to the late onset group. They also performed more poorly on motor and visual-cognitive tasks. Furthermore, as those afflicted with young onset dementia usually have heavier family and work commitments, they may also struggle with trying to establish a balance in their already hectic lives and living “normally” while coming to terms with the crippling effects of the condition. This highlights the importance of community support in improving the lives of persons with dementia and their loved ones. Dementia advocate Emily Ong, who was diagnosed with young onset dementia at 51 years old, shared her hopes for normalised living in her inspirational speech at the recent ADI2020 Global Conference.
Myth: Life goes downhill after getting young onset dementia
Upon being diagnosed with young onset dementia, one may have the impression that their life is over; that the deterioration of their brain is akin to the deterioration of their ability to live well. From that career climb to being an effective and good parent to a newborn, being diagnosed with dementia at a young age can hinder one’s pursuit of many goals. However, with the right support, one can still enjoy a life full of joy and satisfaction despite dementia. Through a combination of having the right mindset, understanding the condition, and seeking treatment early, the disruption that dementia has on you can be kept to a minimum, and help and resources are also available to provide support and help with making plans for care before the condition progresses.