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At What Age Can Dementia Set In?

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An elderly man looks at a note on the wall and touches his head in confusion.

Dementia refers to a decline in memory, reasoning, and other cognitive abilities that can dramatically alter lives and families. The highest risk factor for developing dementia is aging, affecting mainly those 65 and older. However, young-onset, or early-onset dementia, can occur before age 65. 

Understanding dementia is not just about recognizing its symptoms but also involves fostering a supportive environment where compassion and personalized services take precedence. 

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is a general term for a decline in cognitive abilities, including memory, reasoning, and problem-solving skills. While forgetfulness can be common with getting older, dementia involves significant impairments in cognitive functions that interfere with daily life.

Normal-age-related memory changes can include misplacing keys, forgetting the name of a recent acquaintance, or struggling to find a word and then recalling it later. 

Signs & Symptoms of Dementia

In dementia, it’s more than misplacing keys; it’s a condition that affects memory, oral and spatial abilities, judgment, attention, and problem-solving skills. Early detection of dementia can significantly impact the management of the condition. 

Here are some signs and symptoms of dementia to watch for:

  • Consistent memory lapses or forgetfulness
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Getting lost when driving or walking
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • Decreased or poor judgment
  • Changes in mood and personality

Signs of behavioral and mood changes in dementia can include the following:

  • Anxiousness, sadness, or anger 
  • Personality changes
  • Inappropriate behavior
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Dismissing other’s emotions

What Age Does Dementia Set In?

Dementia primarily affects older adults. However, it’s not a normal part of aging; not everyone will experience it as they age. 

The risk of developing dementia increases with age, particularly after 65, but it’s not strictly limited to the older population. Early-onset or young-onset dementia, characterized by the onset of symptoms, can start before the age of 65, though it’s less common, affecting up to 9% of cases.

Risk Factors for Developing Dementia

Several factors can contribute to the onset of dementia. While age is the most significant risk factor, genetics also play a role, particularly for early-onset forms. 

However, other risk factors, such as lifestyle choices and conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, smoking, and heavy alcohol use, can exacerbate the risk. Additional factors can include social isolation, depression, and cognitive inactivity. 

How Is Dementia Diagnosed?

Dementia is diagnosed through tests and evaluations, including physical exams, cognitive assessments, and brain imaging, such as CT and MRI scans. Doctors will also consider a person’s medical history and may perform blood tests to rule out other conditions. Early detection of dementia is crucial in managing the condition and providing proper care and support.

Dementia Prevention Strategies

While it primarily affects older adults, understanding the risk factors and implementing prevention strategies can help reduce the risk of developing dementia. While there’s no sure way to prevent dementia, certain lifestyle modifications can lower the risk and help manage symptoms if diagnosed with the disease:

  • Maintain a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains
  • Stay physically active with regular exercise
  • Stop smoking
  • Avoid alcohol consumption
  • Control weight
  • Maintain healthy blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar levels
  • Keep your brain engaged through puzzles, reading, or learning new skills
  • Manage cardiovascular health
  • Foster strong social connections

Care & Support for Loved Ones with Dementia

An adult child offers a supportive smile while placing her hand on the shoulder of her older adult father.

If you notice signs or suspect a loved one has dementia, there are several things you can do:

  • Discuss the changes you observe with your loved one.
  • Suggest they see a health care provider they are comfortable with to determine if the changes are related to normal aging or dementia.
  • If they receive a dementia diagnosis, have a family meeting to plan what happens next based on recommendations from your healthcare provider and your loved one’s needs. 

Caring for a loved one with dementia demands patience, understanding, and support. However, caregivers also need support. Connecting with local support groups or associations can provide resources and a community of understanding.

However, when the care and support required are beyond what family members can provide, consider transitioning to memory care programs in senior living communities. These programs offer a structured environment and tailored care to meet loved one’s needs and preferences. 

Comprehensive Memory Care

It’s natural to fear dementia, either for ourselves or for those we love. However, you can reduce your risk by understanding its signs, risk factors, and ways to delay or mitigate its impacts. 

Dementia doesn’t mean reducing a loved one’s worth or the depth of their life experiences. With compassionate care and strong community support, loved ones with dementia can lead fulfilling, engaging, and active lives.

If you’re a caregiver or family member of a loved one with dementia, remember you’re not alone in this journey. Contact The Legacy at Long Meadow for support at every step. 

Written by LifeWell

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