View Full Version : Early onset Dementia - a sad tale to learn from.

11-26-2007, 03:16 PM
This past Thursday (Thanksgiving), a good friend of mine died. It was not a shock as he had been getting slowly worse over the past two years and we knew the clock was ticking. I thought I might try to find some good in his death by passing on some lessons I have learned from his illness in the hope that by spreading the word, others might be saved the same fate.

8 years ago, Michael had a Liver transplant. The disease he had was not caused by alcohol, but by exposure to some chemicals at some point in his career. As part of the anti-rejection medication, Michael was given some steroids that compromised his insulin production, making him a diabetic. Things went well for the first couple of years, but 5 years ago he began to experience the first signs of vascular disease resulting in the loss of 4 toes over the following 2 years. At the same time, he lost his job and could not find another due to the unwillingness of any company to take on a known medical issue that could result in substantial loss of productivity.

A little under 3 years ago, we began to notice some character changes and odd behavior that concerned us. For example, Michael began obsessing over certain women that we never were able to meet. Then, he began isolating himself in his apartment, rarely joining us for meals. At first, we attributed this to depression caused by the unemployment, but as the odd behavior worsened, we began watching him more closely to see what was going on. Eventually, his behavior changed so markedly that we knew it was a medical issue.

Michael began telling us that there was a police officer that wanted to kill him because he had slept with his wife. This police officer was sitting all night long in the parking lot outside of his appartment with his lights flashing. When we drove by, there was not even a single car there despite Michael's insistance that he was looking right at him. Michael's obsession over imaginary women also intensified to the point that he began following random Hondas convinced that it was the woman he was madly in love with. Soon after this, Michael began to get lost while driving and at one point we were forced to drive 50 miles to pick him up in a blizzard when he could not find his way home. We actually had to get the combined resources of the Milwaukee police, two Sherrif departments from two counties, the State police, and the cell phone company to track him down in the middle of the country. At this time, with the assistance of the police, we had Michael signed into a hospital for observation.

For two months, his health deteriorated, both mentally and physically. At one point he was placed on a resperator in the ICU when his breathing almost stopped. Mentally, he became more addled, to the point that he would confuse his two son's names. The doctors concluded that Michael was suffering from Early-onset Dementia. It was at this point that we had the courts declare him incompetent and we had him placed in a nursing home. Over the next year and a half, he deteriorated in distinct stages followed by 2 or 3 month periods of stability. During this time he lost his left leg after a massive infection got into his bone. Finally, at a point where he could no longer swallow or breath properly, he died in hospital.

I researched the possible causes of his condition, but came up with no single cause that fit his exact situation. We theorized that the chemicals that killed his liver could still have been damaging his brain, but had no proof. We looked into the possible negative affects of being on the Atkins diet for an extended period of time (Michael was on it for a little over a year), but the symptoms did not quite fit. We looked into the medications he had to take and how they might have interacted with the dietary supplements he loved to take. Everything we looked at was a near fit, but could not be proven and still left us with questions.

It was not until the day before Michael eventually died that an Infectious Disease doctor in the hospital came up with a condition that fit his situation perfectly - Multi-infarct Dementia (MID) (http://www.healthline.com/adamcontent/multi-infarct-dementia?utm_medium=ask&utm_source=smart&utm_campaign=article&utm_term=Multi-Infarct+Dementia&ask_return=Multi-infarct+dementia). According to the doctor, the vascular disease that had taken his toes and leg can also attack the circulatory system in the head. When this happens, tiny strokes occur that cut off the blood flow to small areas of the brain, resulting in a sharp decline in mental accuity. The damage is permanent and eventually will result in a collapse in the brains ability to tell the body to breath. Another stroke may not happen for a couple of months, or at all if the patient is very lucky. According to research, treatment is difficult, although it may be possible to treat them exactly the same way as strokes caused by other blockages.

This is a somewhat abbreviated history since the entire story with all of the twists and turns would take a long time to read. The point of my writing is to urge anyone who has a diabetic friend or relative to keep a close eye on the behavior of that person and, should a change be seen that seems a little strange, get them to the hospital fast. Hopefully, by bringing this possible condition to the attention of the doctors, they may be able to minimize the damages and start a regime that could prevent the kind of death that Michael suffered. If this story is able to save just one person this way, then the memory of Michael will be that little bit brighter.



11-26-2007, 03:52 PM
Hi Angus,
I just wanted to thank you for sharing this story, and tell you I am very sorry for your loss. You obviously were a great friend and did all you could. Spreading word of this story will help others I am sure.
Thanks again

11-26-2007, 04:14 PM
Sorry for your loss, and sorry he had to go the way he did. Its so sad when dignified respectable people go out in a way that doesnt reflect the way they lived......

11-26-2007, 10:43 PM

I'm very sorry for your loss. I'm a physician myself, and while I'm only 33, I have witnessed many tragic events that make me thankful every day that I have beuatiful son (avatar) and loving wife.

Thanks for sharing.