What It’s Like To Have Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)

Hello, my name is David Fleming.

David Flemming FTD Dementia
The Flemming Family

Recently, I was diagnosed with Frontotemporal dementia (FTD). I had my twenty -four hour pity party and then it finally hit me. I am a retired firefighter and Emergency Technician. I have seen so many victims of accidents and there are so many people with health, financial and relationship problem who had far worse problems than me in life. I finally realized, why did I think I should not be immune to the problems of this world? What made me so special, that I should be exempt from these problems of life? I have the greatest family in the world. Four sisters, a brother, two sons, a granddaughter, in-laws, cousins, aunts and uncles, friends and a church family who love and support me always with unconditional love. I know I am the richest and luckiest man alive. I sat down and wrote to all my family and friends and thanked them for standing up with me and all their support and love.

I decided that day, that I was going to use all my God given talents to help others less fortunate than myself. I would strive to become a better man, brother, father, grandfather and friend. I would give my love to all these people, better than I have ever done before. I have always loved them, but I now love with more compassion and in a more passionate way.

I have always been a person with a positive attitude, but now I am more determined than ever to be more positive and a good example to everyone I meet. I am doing several things to keep myself as alert and useful as I possibly can be. I help my sisters, my church family and friends with construction, electrical, plumbing, and even helped one sister devise a filing system to aid her with her finances. I do some cooking, laundry, and keep a clean and neat home. I work crossword puzzles, read books and play games that exercise my mind. I walk a lot and work at doing things that keep me in good mental and physical shape. I love to dance and sing karaoke. I make my bed every day and make certain that my medicines are in my daily planner. I try to pay attention to my physical appearance. I dress and clean up pretty well. I brush my teeth, shower and shave every day. A positive attitude and prayers will keep us sharp and looking and acting young. Our hearts will take care of the rest.

For those who are taking care of us, please don’t forget to tell us what we are doing different. We may not know that we are digressing, but we need to know what aspects of our lives that we need to work on to keep us on top of our deficiencies. Also, if you are taking care of our mail and our bills, please remember that we still need to feel important and loved. So go ahead and send that junk mail to us! You have the checkbook and credit cards, so we won’t be buying all that junk that they ask us to buy. Another thing you can do is to give us cash when we go out to dine or to the movies. Just enough cash to pay for what we doing gives us pride to still be able to pay our own way, at least in our own minds.
I am still looking forward to a bright and exciting future. I will never give up on myself and what I can do to help others. I want to travel and see the world before I have to say I cannot do this anymore. We are all trying to get through this disease with as few problems as possible.

Sincerely, David

Even A Rocket Scientist Can Be at Risk for Alzheimer’s

I retired from Mission Analysis and Design (MAD scientist) 11 years ago, having worked a diverse mission set, including Apollo, Comet Sample Return, Mars exploration and classified projects (if I told you, I’d have to kill you).  One of my favorite movies is “Dr.Strangelove”.

My symptoms were first noticed by my wife about 15 years ago, which started a search for answers.  About 3 years ago, I was diagnosed with Early Stage Alzheimer’s, soon followed with a diagnosis of the behavioral variation of Frontal Temporal lobe Degeneration, or bvFTD.

I believe FTD is the more correct diagnosis, but am attending the monthly Alzheimer’s Early Stage patient support group since my diagnoses.  I encourage anyone who has dementia to attend this or any other support group.  It is a great way to share experiences in a safe environment.  You would be surprised at how many symptoms you have in common with others.

My dementia has noticeably increased over the last couple of years.  Memory is a challenge, as is math, including simple arithmetic.  Verbal communication skills and comprehension have also significantly declined.

 Difficulty completing familiar tasks can be a sign of Alzheimer's disease.
Difficulty completing familiar tasks can be a sign of Alzheimer’s disease.

The scientist in me can observe these things in a detached and studious way (a defense mechanism?) which helps, plus being a naturally low key person with a sense of humor.  Either that or my brain has reduced my ability to feel and/or consciously express things.  Probably some combination of all the above.

I have done some consulting for NASA, my last job ending in early 2012.  But it is clear that I can no longer contribute as I once did.  It was fun, and paid well, but all good things come to an end.

My motto is as it always has been, to love and appreciate my wife, to adapt to cognitive decline as best as possible, and to enjoy life as much as possible.

-Phil