September 24 to October 1, 2017 is the third annual World Frontotemporal Dementia Awareness Week.
This year’s theme is "Think It’s Alzheimer’s? Think Again." The aim is to increase awareness that not all dementia is Alzheimer’s disease, and that in fact, one of the most common forms of dementia for people under age 60 is frontotemporal dementia (FTD). In the past, FTD was commonly referred to as Pick's disease.
According to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration, FTD is distinct from other forms of dementia in two important ways:
Because of the younger onset of FTD, it is often initially misdiagnosed as a psychiatric condition or movement disorder, such as Parkinson’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is another possible misdiagnosis. In many cases, FTD takes nearly four years to accurately diagnose.
There are many legal issues that may arise when someone is living with FTD. For example, in some individuals, new and out-of-character criminal behaviour may be an early warning sign of the disease. In criminally accused persons with behavioural variant FTD, some common violations include inappropriate sexual advances, theft, and public urination.
Dr. Georges Naasan, a neurology professor at the University of California who has studied FTD and criminal violations, says that older patients who are accused of crimes that deviate from their usual personality should be screened for an underlying neurodegenerative disorder:
"When you've gone through life for 50 years and haven't done anything and then, all of a sudden, you're involved in a case of sexual abuse or whatever, I think that at some point someone in the system should wonder [whether] this person needs a medical evaluation rather than putting him in prison, and then years later when he progresses, discovering that this was, in fact, a dementia."
To learn more about World FTD Awareness Week, please visit the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration website.
About Dementia Justice
Dementia Justice is a federally incorporated non-profit society dedicated to advancing the rights, needs and dignity of people with dementia who are, or are at risk of becoming, involved with the criminal justice system. We aim to achieve our objectives through public advocacy, awareness-raising, education, and interdisciplinary legal and policy research.