Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Posterior Cortical Atrophy {PCA}

As students are headed back to school, is there a subject would you like to learn at this stage of your life?  
My father-in-law has been diagnosed with PCA.  I never heard of this and it is something I would like to learn more about.

Posterior cortical atrophy (PCA), also known as Benson's syndrome, is a rare degenerative condition in which damage occurs at the back (posterior region) of the brain. In the vast majority of people, the cause of PCA is Alzheimer's disease.
At first we knew something was wrong, but had no idea what.  My mother-in-law researched and researched until she found a website about PCA.  A dr. appointment was made to a specialist in Philadelphia.  The diagnosis was heartbreaking, but at least we could move forward and help Stan as much as we can. My mother-in-law is relentless in keeping Stan's mind active. The love she shows her husband is amazing and outstanding.
The first symptoms of PCA tend to occur when people are in their mid-50s or early 60s. However, the first signs are often subtle and it may be some time before a formal diagnosis is made.
Looking back there are many signs that we missed.  Simple things like running into furniture or knocking things over. Tripping. Not wearing matching socks.  These things were intermittent and not noticed by us.
Initially, people with PCA tend to have a relatively well-preserved memory but experience problems with their vision, such as difficulty recognising faces and objects in pictures. They may also have problems with literacy and numeracy. These tasks are controlled by the back part of the brain, where the initial damage in PCA occurs.  
When Stan's vision began deteriorate he went to an eye doctor.  The doctor told him there was nothing wrong with his eyes.  It was baffling because there was something wrong with his vision.  After learning about PCA, the vision problems made more sense.  His vision has gotten to the point where he cannot read or drive anymore, focusing on objects is difficult and even talking walks is a struggle.  It is becoming difficult for him to navigate from one room to the next.
As damage in the brain spreads and the disease progresses, people develop the more typical symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, such as memory loss and confusion. There are no specific medications for the treatment of PCA but some people find medications for Alzheimer's disease helpful.  
Stan has more good days than bad.  The good days is like having our father, the man we know and love.  He can remember things back to his childhood and can tell stories about the things his sons and grandchildren have done growing up.  The bad days are sad.  He can become so confused.  It's too hard for me to go into details and talk about.  I can only pray that he can be at peace during this struggle and pray for his family and friends to remain strong.

Click HERE to learn more about PCA.


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