Dementia

Reporter: Paul Makin

THEY CALL IT YOUNGER ONSET DEMENTIA AND IT'S A SLOW KILLER.

ONCE IT ONLY STRUCK DOWN THE ELDERLY BUT NOW AGE IS NO BARRIER.

RESEARCH HASN'T KEPT PACE WITH THE DISEASE.

THE TYPES OF DISEASES THAT AFFECT THE YOUNG CAUSING DEMENTIA IN YOUNGER PEOPLE HAVE BEEN NEGLECTED.

ALAN KING STARTED EXPERIENCING THE SYMPTOMS OF FRONTAL TEMPLE DEMENTIA AT AGED 52 BUT A MISDIAGNOSIS OF DEPRESSION LEFT HIM WRONGLY MEDICATED AND DESPERATELY SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS.

"WE JUST REALISED THAT HE WASN'T DOING THE THINGS HE NORMALLY WOULD DO …THE LANGUAGE ….FINDING THE WORDS WAS DIFFICULT …..AND SO YES HE WOULD HAVE BEEN ROUGHLY 52 WHEN WHEN WE FIRST NOTICED PROBLEMS."

BUT NOW 8 YEARS LATER ....HIS CONDITION IS GETTING WORSE.

" NO ONE'S SURE HOW MUCH TIME WE HAVE LEFT."

IN A DESPERATE MOVE TO STIMULATE ALAN'S BRAIN...... HIS WIFE ROBBIE CHALLENGES HIM WITH SIMPLE GAMES.....GAMES THAT A CHILD COULD MASTER ......BUT FOR ALAN IT'S A MAJOR PUZZLE ...LIKE THE DISEASE ITSELF.

"MOST PEOPLE WHO ARE WORKING THAT ARE DIAGNOSED WITH THIS …THEY GET DIAGNOSED BECAUSE THEY CAN'T DO THE PARTICULAR JOB THEY'VE BEEN DOING."

AND THAT'S WHAT HAPPENED TO DAVID ANDERSON WHO DEVELOPED SYMPTONS AT 50 YEARS OF AGE.

"I FINALLY WENT TO THE DOCTOR WHEN MY BOSS ORDERED ME TO."

PEOPLE RARELY SURVIVE MORE THAN 10 YEARS AFTER A DIAGNOSIS OF DEMENTIA.

BUT THIS DEATH SENTENCE HAS BEEN IMPOSED ON EVEN YOUNGER PEOPLE.

IN THE NSW TOWN OF DENILIQUIN YET ANOTHER STORY OF WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN ....BUT THIS TIME A MAN DIAGNOSED WITH YOUNGER OFFSET DEMENTIA AGED IN HIS THIRTIES.

FATHER OF GED FOGARTY, RICHARD, "IT'S JUST SOMETHING YOU JUST DON'T EXPECT….AH..YOU KNOW YOUR SON OF 36 YEARS OF AGE TO BE STRUCK DOWN WITH DEMENTIA IT'S AH….YEAH…JUST….JUST BLEW US AWAY."

A ONCE VITAL GED FOGARTY NOW SPENDS HIS DAYS WITH A CARER PLAYING TABLE TENNIS.......TAKING WALKS.....RIDING A SCOOTER ...OR WITH HIS PARENTS, PAT AND RICHARD, SIMPLY TOSSING A FOOTY AROUND.

" AS PARENTS …AHM…..TO SEE YOUR SON WHEN HIS LIFE WAS VIRTUALLY JUST STARTING TO WHERE IT IS NOW IS…..YEAH…WE ..WE VIRTUALLY FEEL LIKE WE'VE LOST OUR SON …AND NOW WE ARE AHM…WELL WE'VE LOST THE SON THAT WE'VE HAD," SAYS RICHARD.

A SON WHO WAS A BRILLIANT JEWELLERY DESIGNER IN MELBOURNE........WITH THE WORLD AT HIS FEET.

NOTHING COULD PREPARE HIS PARENTS FOR WHAT WAS TO COME.

"I DON'T THINK YOU'RE PREPARED WHEN YOU PUT YOUR PARENTS IN A NURSING HOME …LET ALONE PUT YOUR SON INTO A NURSING HOME BUT IT'S INEVITABLE THAT THAT'S GOING TO HAPPEN WITH GED."

MOTHER PAT, " YOU KNOW, TO HAVE HAD GED TO BE ENJOYING AND LOVING LIFE THE WAY HE DID AND HAVE EVERYTHING BEFORE HIM AS HE DID AND THEN SUDDENLY ALL OF THAT HAS BEEN SNATCHED AWAY FROM HIM …NOTHING CAN PREPARE YOU FOR THAT. TO BE DIAGNOSED WITH DEMENTIA AT AGED 36 IS DEVESTATING."

PROF HODGES FROM THE PRINCE OF WALES MEDICAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE IN SYDNEY ...THE ONLY TEAM RESEARCHING YOUNGER ONSET DEMENTIA IN AUSTRALIA... SAYS OUR PROGRAM TONIGHT IS SHINING A LIGHT ON THIS MISUNDERSTOOD DISEASE.

"DEMENTIA IS TYPICALLY ASSSOCIATED WITH THE ELDERLY AND GETTING FUNDS FOR DEMENTIA RESEARCH IS VERY DIFFICULT."

"LETS PUT SOME MORE FUNDS INTO DEMENTIA RESEARCH …IT'S NOT AN OLD PERSON'S DISEASE …IT'S NOT A DISEASE THAT 80 YEAR OLDS ARE DYING FROM ….IT'S A DISEASE THAT YOUNG PEOPLE ARE DYING FROM."

RESEARCHERS SAY IT COULD BE ANOTHER 10 TO 15 YEARS BEFORE A DRUG IS DEVELOPED TO COMBAT YOUNGER ONSET DEMENTIA.... MEANWHILE THESE BRAVE PEOPLE ARE AT THE FOREFRONT OF PUBLIC AWARENESS.......LIKE GED'S MUM PAT.

"IF HIS TRAGEDY CAN ASSIST TO BRING ABOUT CHANGE …THAT WILL BE A POSITIVE THING."