Old age is the main risk factor for dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. Dementia, though, can strike in the prime of a person's life, disrupting career and family life.
Chad Thomsen is living through that experience as his wife's memory and personality slowly fade.
"When Roxanne and I got married, she was an incredibly loving person. She was great with kids and family," Thomsen said. "Roxanne was an extremely driven person, extremely hard-working, worked two jobs."
However, about two years ago, work and home life became increasingly difficult for Roxanne.
"Initially, I thought it was forgetfulness and not being attentive when we would talk," Thomsen said.
Eventually, a neurologist diagnosed Roxanne with Picks Disease, or FrontoTemporal Dementia. At the age of 41, the temporal lobe of Roxanne's brain was shrinking.
"FTD – you lose your emotions, you lose who you are. You have total lack of insight, total apathy toward just about everything," Thomsen said.
Roxanne's FTD began progressing rapidly shortly after the couple's son, Carson, was born. In July, she went to live with her parents, so that Thomsen can focus on raising Carson.
"I guess the blessing in disguise is that he never really developed a true mother-son relationship," Thomsen said. He admitted, though, that he's missed his wife very much.
"It's been really hard on me," Thomsen said. "It's almost as if someone carved out her personality and took it away and left an empty shell of a person that I know as my wife."
Medications that slow the progression of Alzheimer's might help Picks patients – if it is caught early enough. However, the disease rarely is, doctors say.
"She could live for another year or two, or she could live maybe five years," Thomsen said.
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