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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

When Dementia Renders Your Spouse a Stranger

Richard Webber & Adele of Grey's Anatomy
Dementia, always a sad development for any family, is particularly cruel in long-term marriages where one spouse is afflicted, and the other is left to pick-up the pieces.  In such cases, marriages are often stressed to the break-point.

This issue has received national attention lately, courtesy of the hit television series, Grey's Anatomy, where Dr. Webber's character is losing his wife, Adele, to Alzheimer's.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of progressive dementia.  Recent scientific findings, however, suggest that there may be many sub-types of dementia.

For example, frontotemporal degeneration [also known as Pick's disease] manifests itself much earlier than Alzheimer's and progresses faster.  Frontotemporal degeneration is believed to afflict between 50-60 thousand adults in the United States, compared to the 5 million Americans afflicted with Alzheimer's.

Frontotemporal disease is particularly threatening to a marriage due to the swift onset of symptoms which attack a spouse's personality directly; not just with the onset of memory loss, as in much older Alzheimer's patients.  The non-afflicted spouse often feels ignored, snubbed or maligned because of the most common characteristic of the disease: silence.

Like many diseases, frontotemporal degeneration progresses differently in individuals, taking on a life of its own.  Most cases feature a prominent and swift deterioration of the patient's overall personality; a complete breakdown in the patient's ability to communicate with and care about others.

Obviously, the patient's ability to hold down a job, or to hang onto their marriage, is put to the test.  This is because frontotemporal degeneration attacks the frontal temporal lobe of the brain; the region responsible for decision-making and judgment.  The frontal lobe actually shrinks.

Sometimes, one disease is mistaken for the other, leading to confusion among the family care providers and a confusing series of hospital stays, doctors visits and testing.

Dementia, in general, highlights the need to secure a solid estate plan early in a marriage, before the onset of any incapacity.  Once a dementia sets in, an individual could lose their mental capacity and have a guardian and conservator appointed to manage their affairs.  While this fiduciary could be, and usually is, a family member, no estate planning is possible while a loved one is under such legal incapacity.

I you or a spouse have been diagnosed with dementia, here are some local support groups that may be of use:
In the meantime, if you are enjoying the fruits of good health, do not take it for granted.  Be proactive and get an estate plan executed.


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Anonymous Dementia Signage said...

We can help those who are suffering dementia by using dementia signages.

July 31, 2012 at 1:35 AM 
Blogger Abrar Ahmad said...

Let me briefly tell you that there are multiple forms of dementia - alzheimer’s disease being the most common one that accounts for 40 to 75% of dementia cases and is the sixth leading cause of death in United States. Additionally, dementia and its types have common signs with some variations. Let’s start with the most common signs of dementia most commonly seen in patients at the early stages of the disease. They start experiencing subtle memory loss, mood instability such as immediate occurrences of maniac (laugh) and depression (sadness) episodes, and have trouble with listening and explaining things to other people, communicational obstructions to be exact. They also segregate their selves from social gatherings and unions, face difficulty in performing daily chores and also experience muscle impairment. Additionally, some people fail to converse with other people because they fail to keep up the pace and comparatively take longer to process the coming words and repeat the same question over and over again. Most of the cases showed that, dementia patients start segregating their selves and start living alone because they could not keep up with the lives of normal people. They just are not up for the adaptation to change. In one of the form of dementia, which is Lewy Body dementia, probable signs appear to be sleeplessness. Patients experience insomnia which leads to mood swings. It has been seen that they fail to keep tracks of roads and lose their tracking skills as well. In case of Alzheimer’s, a patient the most common signs are memory loss and forgetfulness. In some cases, it has been observed that people with Alzheimer’s segregate their selves from others. Additionally, they experience complete memory loss and trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships, lack the judgement skill and a complete withdrawal from work or social activities. One most commonly observed is the forgetfulness and inability to retrace steps. There is another type of dementia called Parkinson’s characterized as uncontrollable movement of body parts such a shaking limbs and fingers. It has been observed that patients experience writing and speech changes, their ability to respond fails badly and they lose posture and balance. One of the common sign is bradykinesia characterized as slow body movement. One thing to keep in mind before labelling someone as a dementia patient is that forgetfulness and memory loss do no really mean a person has dementia because memory loss and forgetfulness are a normal parts of aging. But if any severity has been observed in these signs, a patient definitely requires a professional advice and consultation. There is no cookie approach to cure dementia but if you observe such changings or signs in your loved ones do not take it for granted before it gets too late.

November 14, 2016 at 8:32 AM 

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