A recent article in the New York Times highlights a sad fact of life that is commonly overlooked. And that is, quite often some things are overlooked for no better reason than because something else gets so much press that the little things get lost in the noise. Dementia is one such problem – one that affects millions of people the world over. Maybe another part of the reason is because dementia isn’t just one disease, like Alzheimer’s. It’s a condition caused by a whole host of different things. One kind in particular, the relatively unknown Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA), is a prime example.
PPA sneaks up on people, just as Alzheimer’s does, but it isn’t as obvious because, at least in the early to middle stages, it doesn’t affect memory. Instead, it slowly kills a person’s ability to communicate. Those afflicted find themselves one day struggling to find the word they are looking for but rarely think much of it. Having difficulty finding the right word for something is common to most everyone as they move into their 60s. What’s different here though is that it gets progressively worse over the course of a decade or so. People eventually find they can no longer express what they are trying to say or be understood. They start to find that there is some overlap between memory and expression, such as making the jump from converting pin numbers to something they have to punch into an ATM machine, or understanding concepts they used to get without so much as a second thought, such as how to work the television remote or microwave. Eventually, it becomes debilitating and again, like Alzheimer’s, in the end it takes their life.
Having PPA is difficult, of course, as is living with someone that has it. But making it even more difficult is the limited knowledge or understanding of the wider world at large. People assume you’re fine, or you have Alzheimer’s, one or the other. There’s no room for middle ground when the media has programmed everyone to see the world with such a limited viewpoint. The fact is, a lot of people do live with varying degrees of different types of dementia, and a lot of those people’s lives are an awful lot more stressful than need be, simply because of rampant ignorance about the different types of problems the mind can encounter as a person ages.
What would be better is if people would open their own minds to more possibilities when they, their doctors or other people begin to notice something is just a little off and then take it from there, rather than jumping to ill-advised conclusions.