Early onset dementia: What is it and how can it impact your life?

Alix Popham's revelation of being diagnosed with early onset dementia has put the issue in the spotlight. Credit: PA Images

Early onset dementia has been in the headlines recently after former Wales rugby flanker Alix Popham, 40, revealed he has been diagnosed with the condition.

Now, other people who have been given a diagnosis of early onset dementia are hoping to spread awareness of the condition, the signs to look out for and explain just how damaging it can be for people and their loved ones.

Sharon Ashford was diagnosed with early onset dementia at 56

Sharon Ashford received her early onset dementia diagnosis aged just 56.

Changes in her behaviour and thinking led her family to become worried that something was not right.

"In work she wasn't hitting her targets so she was struggling in work," Ms Ashford's daughter, Bethan said.

"Logical things weren't logical for her anymore.

"And we could just tell that something wasn't right. And then in July 2018 they did pretty much say it's early onset alzheimer's."

Sharon died in March, aged 58.

Bethan said: "It's so cruel. They completely lose themselves.

"They're still themselves but in a completely different way, it's just so cruel."

Amanda Quinn was just 49 when she was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer's disease Credit: Handout

Amanda Quinn said she noticed a significant worsening of her circumstances after she was diagnosed with young-onset Alzheimer's disease at the age of 49.

In the three years since her diagnosis she said life has gotten more difficult.

She said: "I've become incontinent. I've lost my sense of perception, I've lost my sense of danger.

"I can't go out on my own because I can't remember how to get home."

Medical professionals who work on the condition have said dementia in younger people manifests itself in more ways than memory loss.

Other symptoms can include confusion, struggling to find the right words and communicating, recognising objects and losing interest in activities previously enjoyed.

Lorraine Davies, a dementia support worker at Alzheimer's Society Cymru, said: "If someone's experiencing a change in their behaviour, in their mood, if they're having difficulty concentrating.

"Things like that could all be little signs, and a GP's definitely the first port of call."  

Alix Popham played rugby for Wales as a flanker, his revelation of his early onset dementia diagnosis has helped publicise the issue Credit: PA Images

Amanda and Bethan now hope they use their situations to bring about some positive change.

Bethan said: "Potentially me and my brothers could get it.

"I've got a son so it's really important for me to keep speaking about it too much into and raising awareness of it."

Amanda said she had no plans to let her diagnosis get in the way of doing the things she really wanted to do in life before everything changed.

"I still have a voice and while I have a voice I'm going to use it.

"I still have hopes and dreams and I hope to live them one day.

"There has to be a cure at some point, maybe not in my lifetime but in future generations."


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