A RARE form of dementia has left a Brailes man a ‘baby in an adult’s body’.
The illness means 49 year-old Lance Mills is forced to communicate with his wife Adele using coughs, eye contact and a child’s Etch-a-Sketch toy.
Four years ago the former steel erector was diagnosed with behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia (FTD), which causes personality changes and problems with speech.
And 42 year-old Adele says the disease has left him unable to speak or wash, dress or feed himself.
She said: “After Lance was first diagnosed, his abilities were eroded to those of a five or six-year-old, but now he’s like a nine-month-old baby in an adult’s body.
“If you came into our home you’d think I was a mum with young kids with all the toys that are around.
“As horrendous as all this is I’m thankful that Lance has never shown any aggression like some people with FTD do and is very playful, so he likes watching CBeebies and he would use his Etch A Sketch to draw shapes to me. He still has a giggle though he’s mute.
“Lance is not quite bedbound, but I believe he would be had I not kept him at home and kept him stimulated every day. He still recognises me, which is something other people don’t expect which I think is down to an assumption that all forms of dementia are just like Alzheimer’s.”
Before his illness Lance was described as outgoing, loud and cheeky. His family say he worked hard and enjoyed fishing, computer games and walking.
But Adele recognised something was wrong after he lost his interest in fishing, started chain-smoking and would walk for hours each day before returning home and switching the lights on and off.
The couple visited Lance’s GP who diagnosed him with depression as he has lost both his dad and sister to cancer in a short space of time.
But when Adele received a call from Lance’s boss saying he had been putting bolts but not screws into place, causing huge health and safety risks, she went back to the GP for help.
After further tests and a scan which showed the front of his brain had shrunk, Lance was finally diagnosed.
Since then Adele has needed carers to come in to help her as her husband needs 24-hour care.
She said: “By the point Lance was formally diagnosed he was already in his own bubble and down to just one word. He couldn’t hold conversations. I felt so grateful to finally find out what was wrong, he had become a different person for so long that the diagnosis was a relief.
“It’s an incredibly hard time for me, and his mum whose husband and daughter have died.
“We can’t believe someone could go from being the life and soul of the party, holding intelligent conversations and with so many passions, to being like this.
“I’ve thought about sharing my story for a while, but I’ve finally decided to take the plunge because I’m desperate to raise awareness of this cruel disease which has taken my partner from me.”
Adele also said she plans to donate Lance’s brain to research when he dies in the hope that it will help in the fight to find a cure.
Director at Alzheimer’s Research UK, Tim Parry said: “Adele and Lance’s story tells of the unique and demanding complications that dementia brings, and we’re grateful for their honesty in helping to improve understanding.
“FTD is thought to account for less than five percent of all dementia cases, and usually affects people between the ages of 45 and 64.
“It is only through research into all the many complex forms of dementia that we can defeat the condition, which turns lives upside down and which no one currently survives.”