Dementia is a heartbreaking, mind-stealing, life-altering disorder and according to the World Health Organization affects more than 47 million people worldwide.
The most commonly known dementia is Alzheimer’s found in 60 to 70 percent of cases. But lesser known dementia’s like FTD or frontotemporal dementia are equally as devastating.
The Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health is trying to lead the way in research for dementias across the country.
Beecher Trail was one of 20 in every 100,000 people who are diagnosed with FTD, the most common type of early on-set dementia.
The syndrome wreaks havoc on patients as it deteriorates behavior and language skills prior to memory loss. But often overlooked, the devastating toll it can take on their families.
“The day that I had to walk him out of here, knowing that he was never going to come back and always wondering was I doing the best that I could do,” said Nancy Trail.
Nancy and Beecher Trail would have been married 26 years this June.
“As a married couple, you take those vows to take care of them through thick and thin,” she said.
The navy veteran was a DJ, an ‘exalted ruler’ at the Elks Lodge and always an entertainer, especially around Nancy.
“We got married later after I had my children and so he adopted them you know as his own,” she said. “And he always said, ‘I’m here because I want to be, not because I have to be.’ That’s the kind of person he was.”
Beecher was just 52 when his family slowly, and yet all too suddenly, noticed changes in his behavior.
“He came home and he said, ‘I get ready to talk and the words won’t come out.'”
Doctors put Beecher through numerous tests but never found any abnormalities in his brain. Then they met Doctor Leger, a neurologist specializing in early-on set dementia, at the Lou Ruvo clinic.
“He diagnosed him with primary progressive aphasia which is loss of speech,” Nancy Trail said.
The cause? Frontotemporal dementia.
Once the man of the hour — Beecher grew anti-social, developed obsessive behaviors and lost his job.
“It was unbearable,” Nancy said. “It was the ups and the downs. It was everyday was different. So we didn’t know how to deal with it.”
But the daily struggles turned devastating when “Beecher the preacher” always a man of many words became a man of so few.
“We just started doing whatever we could, learning what we could about it, trying to understand it, trying to learn how to be patient,” she said.
And learning a new way to say I love you even if it was just through hand signals.
“And all of our hopes and our dreams, our plans, our golden years were gone,” Nancy Trail said. “I became more the mother than the wife. That role just changed. Just like a thief, it just came in and took all that away.”
Beecher Trail was just 62 when he died this past October.
This Thursday, April 27, the Lou Ruvo center is recognizing his wife Nancy among three other caregivers in their annual ‘power of love gala’ the primary fundraiser for the non-profit.
You can buy tickets on their website at www.keepmemoryalive.org.