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09 Dec 2021

The Dorchester Hotel, Park Lane, London

Unconditional dementia

By Caring Times editor GEOFF HODGSON

At a meeting recently I had occasion to say: “dementia is usually a condition of older people”.

I was contradicted by a person across the table: “It does not only affect older people,” she asseverated.

“No, but it usually does,” I replied. She shook her head wisely and said “More and more younger people are being diagnosed with dementia.”

I let it go at that, and then did some basic research when I got home. According to Alzheimer’s Research UK, just 5.2% of people with dementia in the UK are under 65, so with 94.8% being aged over 65 I felt myself to be on pretty safe ground, but here’s the thing – right next to the 5.2% statistic, Alzheimer’s Research UK says “it is a common misconception that dementia is a condition of older age”. Strictly speaking that is correct: dementia is not a condition of old age in that one does not have to have dementia in order to be old, but it does rather muddy the waters.

The World Health Organisation speaks more plainly: “Although dementia mainly affects older people, it is not a normal part of ageing”. It is interesting to note that, while fully 10% of people who get mumps, do so when over the age of 30, the WHO classifies mumps as “a disease of childhood”.

Perhaps our home-grown research body hopes to make dementia appear more significant to more people – a clear and present danger – and so attract more funding. But this kind of spin does not sit well with an organisation which should be strong on rational analysis, and it concerns me that many well-meaning but misinformed people have taken up the cry.

Until the facts suggest otherwise, I will continue to assert that dementia is mostly a disease of older people, and I’m sure a lot of people will continue to tell me different.

  • The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.

3 Replies to “Unconditional dementia”

  1. I wonder whether your research threw any light on the person across the table’s bold statement that “More and more younger people are being diagnosed with dementia?”

    1. I cannot find any figures to either confirm or refute this. I suspect that with an emphasis on early diagnosis, there will be some increase on past years, but only up to a threshold – I cannot find any research which suggests the incidence of younger onset dementia is increasing.

  2. We can’t get very far with anything unless we listen to each other and keep our core purpose in mind. Many charities compete with each other to raise money, to be the experts, to build their profile, to be bigger than others, and so on. Both statements were correct but the second was made to demonstrate superior knowledge without listening to the truth of the first. Too much of this goes on and it doesn’t help anyone with dementia.

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