Stephen Graham and Jodie Comer in Help

Help on C4: What is young onset Alzheimer’s and how young can you get it?

Stephen Graham's character Tony suffers from the condition in Channel 4 film

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A new Channel 4 film highlights the devastating effect of young onset Alzheimer’s and how young it can strike – so what age can you get it?

What causes it and how many people suffer from it?

Here’s everything you need to know.

Stephen Graham and Jodie Comer in Help
Stephen Graham stars as Tony, opposite Jodie Comer’s Sarah in Help (Credit: Channel 4)

Read more: Help on Channel 4: Jodie Comer shares first look at care home drama but what’s it about?

Tony in Help on C4 – what condition does he have?

Stephen Graham, 48, stars as Tony in the new Channel 4 drama Help.

Events take place in a fictional care home at the start of the pandemic.

Tony is by far the youngest resident in the Liverpool care home as a result of his early-onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

The character of Tony is only 47, but his condition causes periods of confusion and violent outbursts.

There are heartbreaking scenes when he remembers his beloved mother is dead.

Actor Stephen spent time with people who suffer from Alzheimer’s as research for the role.

Young onset Alzheimer’s age – what is it?

Alzheimer’s disease is most common in people over the age of 65.

However, around one in every 20 people with Alzheimer’s disease are under the age of 65 – that’s around five per cent of sufferers.

Doctors call this early- or young-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Barbara Windsor
Barbara Windsor tragically died of Alzheimer’s in 2020 (Credit: YouTube)

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Early-onset Alzheimer’s cause

Doctors do not understand why most cases of early-onset Alzheimer’s appear at such a young age.

But it can be traced to a rare gene that directly cause Alzheimer’s.

People who inherit these rare genes tend to develop symptoms in their 30s, 40s and 50s.

Early-onset dementia symptoms

Often symptoms of early-onset Alzheimer’s are overlooked as the disease is usually associated with old age.

Symptoms are the same as Alzheimer’s in the over-65s.

These include memory loss, in particular difficulties recalling recent events and learning new information.

As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, the memory loss worsens and can lead to confusion and depression.

Dementia is a degeneration of the brain that causes a progressive decline in people’s ability to think, reason, communicate and remember.

Their personality, behaviour and mood can also be affected.

If you are worried about yourself or someone else who is showing symptoms of dementia, talk to your doctor.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s – what age can you get it?

Early-onset Alzheimer’s usually affects people in their 40s, 50s and early 60s.

It can also occur when a person is in their 20s, but this is much rarer.

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of early-onset dementia.

However, there are other causes in younger people such as frontotemporal dementia and vascular dementia.

It is estimated that there are 42,325 people in the UK who have been diagnosed with young-onset dementia.

The actual figure could be higher because of the difficulties of diagnosing the condition.

Awareness amongst GPs is still relatively low and when people are still at work, symptoms are often attributed to stress or depression.

Watch Help on Thursday September 16 2021 at 9pm on Channel 4.

For more information on early-onset Alzheimer’s, visit

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