It was not too long ago that we thought of ADHD as a diagnosis that only affected children. We now understand that ADHD is a condition that remains throughout adulthood and lately, researchers are exploring the connection between ADHD and dementia in the elderly.
In 2011, there was a study published in the European Journal of Neurology that supported the idea that ADHD and a form of dementia called Lewy Body could be linked. Dementia with Lewy Body (DLB) is a common form of dementia that can look a bit like Parkinson’s disease. Like many other dementias, DLB leads to cognitive problems including eventual lack of independence. Researchers found almost 48 percent of the DLB group had previous ADHD symptoms, compared to only 15 percent in the healthy group. However, like all research studies, this study was not perfect. For example, many in the study who they labeled with ADHD had not been diagnosed with ADHD, rather, they had just reported ADHD symptoms.
Since that original study, other researchers have looked at ADHD and what happens later in life. There does seem to be more evidence that there are greater impairments in productivity in later life when ADHD is present (Brod, et al., 2012). Women with ADHD especially have difficulties in their work and relationships later in life (Henry & Jones, 2011). Whether or not these later problems are related specifically to dementia is unknown at this time.
Looking at the connections between ADHD and dementia is a new endeavor and one that needs to be explored more. While awareness of adult ADHD has increased over the last decade, it seems more important than ever that ADHD is respected as a major health consideration throughout the lifespan as our elderly population grows.
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