The New Face of Dementia…



News 8's Kim Lemon has been working on a three-part series of reports about dementia.

The Alzheimer's Association says that in 2014 one in three families will be affected by a dementia diagnosis. The group says that 5.4 million people in America have dementia, including 400,000 in Pennsylvania.

Kim's husband was diagnosed with early onset dementia five years ago.

"I came to understand that dementia is much more than memory loss," said Kim.

In fact, the early warning signs of the illness may begin with physical symptoms.

Sandy Morris, of Lititz, Lancaster County, came to understand that too when her husband, Curt, was diagnosed with Alzheimer's at the age of 46.

She says it was a lot of physical and spatial issues, not memory issues, that were noticed early on. It started out slowly with little things here and there that did not add up.

"I noticed even when he was still teaching he was having trouble getting dressed - miss a belt loop - miss buttoning a shirt," said Sandy.

His memory and personality at the time were fine. The father of two (Tyler and Madi) and beloved teacher at Warwick High School had trouble grading papers, completing tasks and typing - even his handwriting changed.

At the age of 46 a diagnosis came.

"My kids were in eighth and tenth grade. We were teaching Tyler to drive and here we were dealing with an Alzheimer's diagnosis in the middle of driving lessons," said Sandy.

Curt, now 50, is in a memory care facility where patients are monitored and cared for around-the-clock.

Dementia has stolen Curt away from his family.

"The Curt we have now is such a shell of a man I married. So it's a struggle because physically yes, he is still here, but I have 10-percent of my husband left," said Sandy. "So often people will come up and say, 'Does he still remember you?' Yeah, he totally still remembers me. He's forgotten my name, but he calls me his honey."

As the disease has progressed, Curt can barely walk and can no longer feed himself.

"I miss being married," said Sandy. "He's here physically, but he is not here emotionally by any means."

While dementia takes an emotional toll, there is a tremendous financial toll as well. Unless you have long-term care insurance, which many people do not, care is out-of-pocket. That runs on average from $6,000 to $10,000 a month.

While there is no cure, early detection is important because there are many different kinds of dementia and each has a special type of treatment. 

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