Taken from NINDS Frontotemporal Dementia Information Page
(National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke)
What is Frontotemporal Dementia ?
Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) describes a clinical syndrome associated with shrinking of the frontal and temporal anterior lobes of the brain. Originally known as Pick’s disease, the name and classification of FTD has been a topic of discussion for over a century. The current designation of the syndrome groups together Pick’s disease, primary progressive aphasia, and semantic dementia as FTD. Some doctors propose adding corticobasal degeneration and progressive supranuclear palsy to FTD and calling the group Pick Complex. These designations will continue to be debated. As it is defined today, the symptoms of FTD fall into two clinical patterns that involve either (1) changes in behavior, or (2) problems with language. The first type features behavior that can be either impulsive (disinhibited) or bored and listless (apathetic) and includes inappropriate social behavior; lack of social tact; lack of empathy; distractability; loss of insight into the behaviors of oneself and others; an increased interest in sex; changes in food preferences; agitation or, conversely, blunted emotions; neglect of personal hygiene; repetitive or compulsive behavior, and decreased energy and motivation. The second type primarily features symptoms of language disturbance, including difficulty making or understanding speech, often in conjunction with the behavioral type’s symptoms. Spatial skills and memory remain intact. There is a strong genetic component to the disease; FTD often runs in families.
Michael and Patsy had symptoms from both, changes in behavior and problems with language. As the disease progressed, so did the symptoms.
Is there any treatment?
No treatment has been shown to slow the progression of FTD. Behavior modification may help control unacceptable or dangerous behaviors. Aggressive, agitated, or dangerous behaviors could require medication. Anti-depressants have been shown to improve some symptoms.
Anti-depressants did help Patsy with the aggressive and angry behaviors. Sleeping pills helped her to rest at night.
Since we didn’t have clue what was going on with Michael, no drugs were administered, so no benefit here. Two weeks before his death, a doctor prescribed Aricept. A doctor later told us, this was the wrong medication, it actually gave him the ability to plan his death. He said it made the disease speed up in his case, allowing him to think more clearing in short periods of time.
What is the prognosis?
The outcome for people with FTD is poor. The disease progresses steadily and often rapidly, ranging from less than 2 years in some individuals to more than 10 years in others. Eventually some individuals with FTD will need 24-hour care and monitoring at home or in an institutionalized care setting.
After putting together a graph of behaviors over the years, I was able to trace Patsy’s odd behaviors to her late 20’s and Michael’s to his 30’s. Both progressed slowly until they weren’t working on a regular basis and at that time, it seems the disease progressed more rapidly.
What research is being done?
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), and other institutes of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), conduct research related to FTD in laboratories at the NIH, and also support additional research through grants to major medical institutions across the country.
I tried to get Patsy into a clinical trial in NIH, that was the only facility at the time with any trials. We couldn't work it out, since it was so far away and there were no government funds or assistance to help with living expenses/lost wages etc with a location so far away from home (DC Area only at that time). Dr. Paul Schulz, a Neurologist in Houston did want our family to participate in on going testing to keep an eye out. As of this date, we have not done that. There is still very little being done in research compared to other diseases. One doctor told me "Today is like the 1980's were to Alzheimer's, we are just starting to work on FTD Education and Treatment."