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‘Well, That Was a Weird Moment’ and Other Signs of Dementia Family Members Should Watch For

Julie Staple was a child when her dad, Mark Womack, began exhibiting odd behavior. An award-winning violin, viola and cello maker, Womack was not following through for clients nor returning phone calls promptly. He was watching more TV and taking more breaks from work. He began drinking and was quick to become angry.

The behavior lasted years and took its toll. Staple and her mom, Ginny Womack, a professional violinist, thought Mark Womack was depressed.

Her parents got divorced. Mark Womack was fired from two jobs making instruments in Nebraska and Texas. There were other disturbing events. A body shop wouldn’t fix his car because he couldn’t recall insurance information. A drive to his parents’ home that normally took two hours took five. And then came a phone call from his boss to the family — Mark Womack was crying and couldn’t remember how to make a violin. The boss took him to a clinic.

At age 53, Mark Womack was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s in September 2015. Further evaluation a few months back revealed instead a diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia or FTD.

Ginny Womack became his caregiver.

“Had my mom known, she would never have divorced him and been his caretaker from the beginning,” Staple, of Deerfield, Ill., said.

FTD often is misdiagnosed as a psychiatric disorder or Alzheimer’s. It affects the area of the brain generally associated with personality, behavior and language and is often diagnosed in people between the ages of 40 and 45.

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