Inside a Love Gutted by Dementia

Frontotemporal dementia strikes early and fast
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted May 6, 2012 8:05 AM CDT
Inside a Love Gutted by Dementia
The New York Times describes a couple struck by an obscure type of dementia.   (Shutterstock)

A little-known form of dementia can turn sufferers into completely different people, leaving spouses and children struggling to cope with someone who's still there in body but not in mind. Frontotemporal dementia bears some similarities to Alzheimer's—but it can hit patients who are younger and it develops faster. The New York Times tells a tragic and touching story of one couple brought to the brink of divorce before Michael French was diagnosed with the disorder; now, Ruth French has devoted her life to caring for a man who can no longer speak.

Michael French was a warm and intelligent man whose behavior became erratic: He stopped talking to Ruth; he got fired from his consulting job; he began to do bizarre things like buying stock in doomed companies and burning the family's pots and pans. Not knowing what had transformed the man she loved into a moody, erratic stranger, Ruth mulled divorce. But when Michael was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, she vowed to care for him; after years, however, she was forced to put him in a nursing home. "When I told him that I had made arrangements, he said—and this is a man who can’t speak, so he had to muster every bit of energy he could—he said, ‘You did the best you could.'" Click through for the full tale. (More dementia stories.)

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