Is Dementia Common With Down Syndrome? One of Nebraska’s Top I/DD Providers Explains

Is Dementia Common With Down Syndrome? One of Nebraska’s Top I/DD Providers Explains

At Hands of Heartland, we offer community outreach services, residential services, and a variety of other services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Some of the people we support have Down syndrome. Often family members have questions about ailments that people with Down syndrome may have as they age. 

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For example, some studies have shown a possible link between dementia and Down syndrome. If you’re concerned about your family member or friend, here’s what you should know. 

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Dementia and Down Syndrome Connection

Unfortunately, the answer seems to be yes. However, some research shows that people with Down syndrome can develop early medical indicators of dementia without actually beginning to show the symptoms of dementia. 

So there is some connection, and it’s wise to be on the lookout for early signs of cognitive decline. Some scientists think that the increased risk of developing dementia is much like the other health issues associated with Down syndrome. The presence of the extra chromosome is at least somewhat to blame. 

Prevalence of Dementia in People with Down Syndrome

As we age, we all become more susceptible to developing issues like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. However, it seems like people with Down syndrome are even more likely to develop these types of debilitating diseases. 

Scientists who have studied the brains of people with Down syndrome have noticed something distressing. By the age of 40, most have a large buildup of both beta-amyloid plaques and tau tangles. These are abnormal protein deposits that are widely known to be common signs of dementia development. 

As for people with Down syndrome in their 50s, roughly 30 percent of them will develop dementia. Among people with Down syndrome in their 60s, around 50 percent will develop dementia. 

The link between dementia and down syndrome means that it’s important to get your loved one fully assessed by a doctor by age 35. This can establish a baseline that doctors can compare future behavior to, making it easier to diagnose other medical issues. 

Signs of Dementia

Evaluating someone with Down syndrome for symptoms of dementia can be more difficult, but it is not impossible to notice that some type of change has occurred. Many people with Down syndrome won’t self-report their worries about memory problems or cognitive issues, but if you’re close to someone you can still keep an eye out for things that seem off. 

Signs of dementia in people with Down syndrome can include: 

  • A reduced attention span
  • Less interest in activities they once enjoyed
  • Less interest in socializing
  • Sudden mood changes
  • A fragile emotional state
  • Issues with coordination and walking
  • Aggression or irritability
  • Problems sleeping
  • Seizures

If you notice any of these signs, your loved one should be evaluated right away.

Your I/DD Care Providers in Omaha, NE

If you have a family member or friend with an intellectual or developmental disability, like Down syndrome, we can help. Contact Hands of Heartland today to learn more about all of the I/DD services we offer throughout Nebraska and how we support individuals live fuller, more engaging lives. We look forward to hearing from you!

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