Joe Nido knew something was wrong about four years ago, not long after he had quintuple bypass surgery.
In the months that followed, Nido started to become forgetful and occasonally became confused to the point where he put his pants on backward and woke up in the middle of the night unsure of where he was.
When Nido saw his doctor a battery of tests revealed the Essex man had early-onset vascular dementia. Nido was just 52 years old.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, vascular dementia is the second-most common type of dementia.
It develops when “impaired blood flow to parts of the brain deprives cells of food and oxygen. The person may have a past history of heart attacks. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, hardening of the arteries, diabetes, or other risk factors for heart disease are often present,” according to the association.
“I had a hard time when I first got the diagnosis because I’m so used to doing everything for myself,” said Nido, now 55. “I didn’t think dementia was something that struck younger people.”
Dealing with Dementia
For Nido, things went from bad to worse as the long-time Essex resident dealt with his diagnosis.
Unable to work, Nido lost his business—a liquor store he owned for more than 20 years—and later he lost his house and his car. He and his wife, Tammy, were forced to move in with her parents for a while as it took Nido two years to sort out how to receive disability and Medicare.
On top of that, Nido said he noticed that many friends and family members began to treat him differently, which only led to more problems with depression.
“I just don’t think people knew how to react,” Nido said. “They just didn’t know what to say so some just stopped coming around.”
Nido said he takes anti-depressants and that his form of dementia doesn’t necessarily just get progressively worse over time, like Alzheimer’s. Instead, he said his condition worsens when he has other health issues, such as high blood pressure or diabetes.
While Nido admits he felt sorry for himself after his diagnosis, he decided the best way to battle dementia was to take a proactive approach. He joined a support group through the Alzheimer’s Association and has become an advocate for those living with dementia.
Nido will be a facilitator at a roundtable discussion as part of the . The event is set for April 14 at the Crown Plaza in Timonium.
“Just because you have Alzheimer’s or dementia doesn’t mean you should quit living,” Nido said. “You need to stay active both mentally and physically. I still like to do yard work, garden and meet with friends. But don’t get me wrong, it still is difficult not being able to work and having to rely on family members for many things.”
Carol Wynne, early stage program coordinator for the Alzheimer’s Association, said her organization tries to work not only with those suffering from dementia, but with their family members as well.
“It’s a difficult transition for everyone involved,” Wynne said. “In many cases, you have a complete role reversal where someone who is used to caring for others is now totally dependent on those same people for help.”
Wynne said a dementia diagnosis does not mean the end of living for those patients. The Alzheimer’s Association offers many social programs to help people like Nido get out and socialize with others who share imslar conditions. This includes taking trips to local museums, going out to restaurants and even attending the occasional Orioles game.
“It’s so important to stay as mentally sharp as possible,” Wynne said. “The brain is like any other muscle; if you don’t use it, you lose it.”
Nido said he hopes to use the upcoming event as a platform to show others like him that there is still hope. He also wants to create greater awareness of younger-onset dementia at a local, state and even national level.
“I want others to know that they are not alone,” Nido said. “But, we can’t do this alone. We need help from anyone who wants to offer it.”