Frontotemporal Dementia, commonly referred to as FTD, affects areas of the brain that control personality, emotions, behavior, executive functioning, and speech. The most common symptoms of FTD include extreme changes in behavior and personality, specifically:
- Depressed, withdrawn mood
- Social anxiety
- Obsessive behavior
- Decline in personal hygiene
- Poor judgment (lowered inhibitions, inappropriate behavior, lack of social tact)
- Increased apathy/decreased empathy
- Changes in eating habits, including attempts to eat inedible objects
- Weight gain
People who experience FTD often lack of awareness of these cognitive or behavioral changes, which makes discussing these changes with them even more difficult. Family members and caregivers should educate themselves about the symptoms and warning signs of FTD. It is also equally important to help the affected individual ward off any advancement of the disease by engaging them in daily activities that stimulate both the body and the mind. Some suggestions include
- Study another language
- Learn to play a musical instrument
- Play board games or cards
- Stay socially connected to friends and family
- Work on crosswords, number games, or other kinds of brain-teaser puzzles
- Play online memory games or video games
- Read books, magazines, newspaper articles, blogs (like this one!)
- Write poetry or keep a journal
- Enroll in adult education classes
Frontotemporal Dementia is often misdiagnosed as something as mild as depression, or as something much more serious, namely schizophrenia or Alzheimer’s disease. Since no single test can pinpoint FTD, physicians must usually rule out other problems with similar symptoms. Standard testing may include blood tests, MRIs, CT scans, PET scans, and neuropsychological testing.
Most importantly, keep in mind that any sort of degenerative disease can be managed, even when it cannot be reversed or cured. Disease management is best accomplished with a combination of medical interventions, cognitive therapies, and social aids to help the affected individual both cope with symptoms and learn to thrive in their current environment.
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