Local man with dementia misdiagnosed with ADD

State lawmakers in Olympia are getting ready to tackle a health problem that touches millions of lives and costs billions of dollars. But a lot of people don't like to talk about it. As a result many doctors lack proper training, families delay treatment and care, and patients often get misdiagnosed.

Evan Schrier is a 48-year old husband and father of two teen boys. These days, he leaves most of the talking to his family. The former software engineer at Microsoft can't talk like he used to. He can't work. He can no longer drive. Evan has dementia. The symptoms surfaced when he was 42.

"Evan was enrolled in a PhD program at the University of Washington," explained his wife, Allyson.

His brilliant brain suddenly wouldn't work right. He had trouble writing papers. He missed deadlines. His behavior was extremely uncharacteristic. Eventually he had to drop out of the doctoral program and the family started focusing on what could be wrong.

"So Evan began seeing a psychiatrist and the psychiatrist diagnosed him with ADD," Allyson said.

He was given a variety of ADD medications, seen by four different psychiatrists and two therapists, but it only got worse until someone finally connected the dots.

"So this was over a period of six years," Allyson said.

Allyson says the diagnosis of frontotemporal lobe dementia (FTP) came as both a devastating blow, and relief that there was finally an accurate explanation for Evan's behavior. Since receiving the proper diagnosis, the family is learning that mis-diagnosis is only one factor in the growing dementia epidemic. Now, they're joining others to send a message to state leaders and policy makers.

"The state of dementia now is where cancer research was 50 years ago," she said.

Dementia patients, and their advocates are speaking out at a series of statewide town hall meetings sponsored by the Alzheimer's Association, urging state lawmakers to address the critical need for education, research, and funding to find better treatments, and a cure.

"They can't bury their head in the sand about this issue." said Schrier, "It's not going away."

Experts say if memory and cognitive impairment are issues, the diagnosis doesn't seem right and treatments aren't working, ask your doctor to at least rule out some form of dementia.

"A lot of times the limited brief testing for cognitive decline doesn't catch people when things are very subtle," said Dr. Lee Burnside, a geriatric medicine physician at the University of Washington.

Washington is one of only six states in the country with no plan to address the impact of Alzheimer's and dementia on our families, our economy, and our health care system. A newly formed joint legislative committee on aging and disability will begin addressing the issue in October.