FTD or frontotemporal dementia is an umbrella term for a group of disorders demonstrating gradual, progressive cell damage to specific regions of the brain. This disease primarily affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain; regions that control language, decision making, personality and behavior. Often confused as Alzheimer’s, FTD demonstrates key differences which can help delineate this as the correct diagnosis. FTD may not cause memory loss and primarily affects people in the prime of middle age from 40-60 years old.
The most common form of FTD presents with progressive behavioral decline- obsessive compulsive behavior, impulsiveness, overeating, apparent disregard for others and cognition changes. Another form of FTD Causes progressive language decline or aphasia. If the area affected area is the left temporal lobe we will see an inability to put words into the proper context. If the Right temporal region is affected emotions facial recognition and the ability to read others is lost. A third type of FTD causes progressive decline of motor functions tremors , rigidity poor coordination and muscle weakness are displayed. A person with FTD where the right hemisphere of the brain is affected may lose their sense of self and demonstrate an inability to concentrate. Many of these symptoms overlap and each person’s experience can vary.
As many as 10% of all diagnosed dementias are FTD. Researchers continue to study for better ways to make earlier correct diagnoses, and are testing compounds that will increase or decrease certain proteins in the body that have been found to cause some of the early symptoms of FTD. Research into the genetics of FTD is also ongoing.
While this disease is dramatic and alters the life of the family as well as the resident, there are any number of small moments, moments of joy in the little things upon which we can focus. Attending the Haven Holiday party, those small moments were all around us; the look on a residents face as they recognize a song or the face of their daughter or son, laughing as staff come ask for a dance, being able to enjoy the companionship of others; these are the moments we can embrace and hold in our hearts. Our residents may not be the complex individuals of their past but they are individuals with moments of joy and clarity and they teach us the importance of each moment every day.