In 2012 David, better known as Pete Christianson, of neighboring Badger, Minn., was diagnosed with FTD/Pick’s disease at the age of 66 years.
FTD (frontotemporal dementia) is one of the less common types of dementia. The term covers a wide range of different conditions. It is sometimes called “Pick’s Disease” or frontal lobe dementia in which the frontal and/or temporal lobes of the brain die and the pathways that connect the lobes change. Some of the chemical messages that transmit signals between nerve cells are also lost. Over time, and more and more nerve cells die, the brain tissue in the frontal temporal lobes shrink.
FTD symptoms include changes in personality and behavior, difficulties with language and motor skills. These symptoms are different from the memory loss often associated with more common types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease. This disease is said to be “The Long Goodbye”. It is the sixth leading cause of death – every 68 seconds someone else is diagnosed.
Frontotemporal dementia is most often diagnosed between the ages of 45 to 65 years. However, it can also affect people younger or older than this, and is probably under-recognized in older people.
His wife Paulette remarked, “When we look back to 2012 we noticed then something wasn’t normal with Pete. His walking…we thought there was probably some issues with his sciatic nerve. We’ve wondered if this was actuality or if it was part of his diagnosis. Three or four years before that, people noticed behavioral personality changes in Pete. If you were to go back 10 years or more, there was changes that were very gradual. Now you look back and say, ‘Oh, that made sense’. Even before this time, our son Corey, and Pete’s brother, Jim, noticed things he said and did that made them question at the time what was going on.”
It was a little over a year ago while out at the hunting camp, when Pete was naming all of the different kinds of trees out in the yard to his niece. “Now there is no conversation at all,” she said. “Does he understand? Sometimes.”
Since May of this year she has been Pete’s primary caregiver. Devotion, determination, and deep love of her husband compels her to remain strong as she copes with and addresses his progression of loss of interest with friends, being less responsive to others needs and less social interests, troubles with speech, loss of language, impaired understanding of complex sentences, and difficulty finding the right words.
“For someone who was very organized, Pete began to have trouble making decision planning; difficulty with finances or working through a given job or task. Loss of motor skills with slower movements and balance or coordination – this has all worsened as time goes on,” Paulette stated.
Paulette remarked that they are also very grateful for the support and comfort from those right in their own “backyard”…. “We are so blessed to live in the community we do because everybody knows the situation and looks out and watches out for Pete.”
The Greenbush-Badger Lions Club will be hosting a Pancake Breakfast benefit for Pete Christianson on Sunday, November 27, from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Badger Community Center, Badger, Minn., to help defray medical expenses. Free-will offering.
To see the complete story, read the November 23 edition of The Tribune in print or online.