I’m caring for a man in my home who’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but I’d bet any amount of money that he really has vCJD. The neurologist disagrees with me (because my guy doesn’t have the classic jerking/ clonus) and he’s the doc, and either disease is absolutely horrible and incurable, so it makes no difference to my patient in the long run.
My guy is only 65: unusually young to have Alzheimer’s, much less die from it. Less than a year ago, he was still totally independent: able to work, drive, exercise, give himself insulin, etc. I’ve had him since February; in that time he’s become almost completely unable to talk, he can’t add or subtract, operate the TV remote control’s four buttons, read or write, or even find his bedroom or the bathroom most of the time. His behavior, when he’s not staring into space, is bizarre and often hostile. He thinks it’s 1992.
His physical decline is just as (or more) dramatic. Much of the time he can’t walk; he can almost never get out of a chair by himself or remain standing: his balance is completely gone. Often he can’t remain in a sitting position because his balance is so poor. He’s utterly incontinent of urine and feces. He’s begun to have some difficulty swallowing and feeding himself. He has severe hand tremors and a masklike facial expression (Parkinson’s-like).
From what I understand from my internet searches, the new variant CJD doesn’t cause the characteristic jerking of “regular” CJD or BSE. I’ve also read that 20% of people in nursing homes with diagnoses of Alzheimer’s really have CJD. (This was determined by doing autopsies/ brain biopsies.) If Qadgop calls me on this one, which he probably will because I’m just a stupid RN I’ll be happy to find the cites.
I also had a home health patient last year who was diagnosed with CJD (not the new variant, though she had no jerking and also had the Parkinson’s-like symptoms my present patient has). She died within a few months of diagnosis; like my guy, she went from complete dependence to complete helplessness in a matter of months. She was also young (late 60’s). Her original dx was Alzheimer’s, which was later changed to Parkinson’s, then CJD.
She was raised on a cattle ranch. My 65 year old guy has spent many years on his daughter’s cattle ranch. Plus, we live in a city where the population of cattle is much larger than that of people.
Coincidence? I think not!