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A mother has told of her 22-year-old son’s agonising battle with dementia, which means she has to be his full-time carer.

Andre Yarham, from Norwich, was diagnosed with early-onset dementia after his family noticed he was speaking and moving slowly. 

Doctors compared his brain to that of a 70-year-old. 

His mother Sam Fairbairn, 47, said he began only offering three-word answers to questions and had a blank look on his face when spoken to.

Andre now relies on his mother to be his round-the-clock carer, helping to bathe him, make his food and drink and pick out his clothes. 

Mum Sam Fairbairn, 47, said Andre Yarham, 22, answers to questions by family members were becoming three word answers and he had a blank look on his face when spoken to

Mum Sam Fairbairn, 47, said Andre Yarham, 22, answers to questions by family members were becoming three word answers and he had a blank look on his face when spoken to

Andre, who is an avid fan of wrestling, grew up playing rugby and football in school. He enjoyed playing Xbox games like Fifa and Call of Duty with his mates. He also had a job at Lotus Cars, a manufacturer of luxury cars in Norwich, replacing car headliners - the material in the ceiling of the vehicles

Andre, who is an avid fan of wrestling, grew up playing rugby and football in school. He enjoyed playing Xbox games like Fifa and Call of Duty with his mates. He also had a job at Lotus Cars, a manufacturer of luxury cars in Norwich, replacing car headliners – the material in the ceiling of the vehicles

Around 50,000 people in England are thought to be living with early-onset dementia, when tell-tale symptoms begin before the age of 65. 

Yet fewer than two-thirds have been diagnosed, suggesting tens of thousands are unaware they have the memory-robbing illness. 

Ms Fairbairn said it was a ‘devastating blow’ to learn that her son had dementia and said it had been really tough for the family. 

She said: ‘I choose Andre’s clothes, I help him bath as he can’t remember what to do in the shower and make his food and drink. 

‘He’d usually go to the shop in the morning to buy himself a Monster, but now if he went, he’d forget why he was in there.

What is early-onset dementia? 

People whose dementia symptoms started before the age of 65 are known as having young-onset dementia.

Over 70,800 people in the UK are living with young-onset dementia out of the 900,000 people in the UK living with dementia.

Dementia is caused by a wide range of diseases, but it can affect younger people in a different way.

A younger person is much more likely to have a rarer form of dementia.

Younger people with dementia are less likely to have memory loss as one of their first symptoms.

Young-onset dementia is more likely to cause problems with movement, walking, co-ordination or balance.

Young-onset dementia is more likely to be inherited (passed on through genes) – this affects up to 10 per cent of younger people with dementia.

Many younger people with dementia don’t have any other serious or long-term health conditions.

Source: Alzheimer’s Society 

‘We’re not even sure if he understands what’s happening — it’s so difficult to say how he feels now.’

Ms Fairbairn had to give up her job as a coach driver to become her son’s full-time carer. 

She said: ‘When people talk about early-onset dementia, people automatically think of someone as young as 40 but it can affect anyone at any age. 

‘We’ve discussed with him everything that’s going on — especially with the hospital appointments,’ she added.

‘Whether he can understand and process it, we don’t really know. 

‘He gives us nothing at all.

‘To be told that your 22-year-old son is suffering from dementia was a devastating blow.’

Mr Yarham, who is an avid fan of wrestling, grew up playing rugby and football in school. He enjoyed playing Xbox games like Fifa and Call of Duty with his mates.

He also had a job at Lotus Cars, a manufacturer of luxury cars in Norwich, replacing car headliners — the material in the ceiling of the vehicles. 

But all his prospects changed when he started to struggle to get through a day at work. 

He left his job after just six months, with his mother explaining that he struggled to get through the day, but she didn’t feel she could tell them what was wrong. 

It was around this time in November 2022, that Ms Fairbairn noticed that his speech started to slow down. 

She said: ‘He was always chatty even as a kid and I was always telling him to “shut up”.

‘But it got to the point where you’d ask him a question and you’d just get a three or four word answer. 

‘He’d move ever so slowly and when you’d ask him to do something, and you’d just get a blank expression then he’d walk off as if you hadn’t asked him a question.

The news of Andre's (right) early-onset dementia has been 'very tough' on Sam (centre), her husband husband Alastair, 60 (left) and younger son Tyler, 21

The news of Andre's (right) early-onset dementia has been 'very tough' on Sam (centre), her husband husband Alastair, 60 and younger son Tyler, 21 (left)

The news of Andre’s (Pictured right) early-onset dementia has been ‘very tough’ on Sam (pictured centre), her husband husband Alastair, 60 ( pictured left) and younger son Tyler, 21 (pictured right)

Even though there is no cure for dementia the family has now pinned their hopes on medical trials and they have created a bucket list for Andre to complete

Even though there is no cure for dementia the family has now pinned their hopes on medical trials and they have created a bucket list for Andre to complete

‘Now I think he could probably turn his Xbox on but after that he just wouldn’t have a clue what to do next.’

Having previously worked with adults with learning disabilities, Ms Fairbairn noticed traits of autism in her son and decided to get him tested.

‘He scored highly on the autism test but the waiting list was five to seven years so a family member paid for us to go private,’ she said.

‘While this was all happening, I just knew something still wasn’t quite right.’

Mr Yarham was sent for an MRI in October 2023, but the scans revealed an additional diagnosis to autism. 

He had atrophy of the frontal lobe, which causes the part of the brain to shrink. 

It usually occurs in older people. 

Ms Fairbairn, who said her son was diagnosed with early-onset dementia, added: ‘The consultant said it was like looking at the brain of a 70-year-old.’

Early onset dementia can cause problems with behaviour and language and people with young-onset dementia are more likely to have problems with movement, walking, co-ordination or balance than memory loss in the early stages, according to Alzheimer’s Society. 

Mr Yarham had a lumber puncture, a type of test that takes cerebrospinal fluid from the spine for diagnostic testing, and was referred to Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge, where they are testing to find the cause of his dementia. 

Ms Fairbairn, married to Alastair, 60, said the diagnosis has been ‘very tough’ for the family to cope with. Mr Yarham has a younger brother, Tyler (21).

Even though there is no cure for dementia the family has now pinned their hopes on medical trials and they have created a bucket list for Mr Yarham to complete.

Ms Fairbairn said: ‘Although they might not work for Andre, any research from them might help someone else in the future and we’ll take that. 

‘There’s a very, very slim chance of Andre getting better but doctors have told us to expect a shortened life expectancy.

‘What that life expectancy is, they didn’t say so we want to make the most of it.’

Mr Yarham now enjoys going out for drives with his mum in their Volkswagen Polo and watching wrestling or Peaky Blinders. 

His bucket list has raised over £500 of its £1k target on GoFundMe and will hopefully include trips to Shrek’s Adventure in London and the Harry Potter Studio Tour. 

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Post source: Daily mail

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