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‘She can hardly speak or feed herself’ – Woman’s harrowing fight after crushing dementia diagnosis at 31

PUBLISHED: 18:01 04 September 2018 | UPDATED: 18:01 04 September 2018

Becky was struck down by a crushing diagnosis at just 31 Picture: BECKY'S FAMILY

Becky was struck down by a crushing diagnosis at just 31 Picture: BECKY'S FAMILY

Archant

The sister of a once bubbly and lively ski instructor given a crushing diagnosis of dementia at just 31 is speaking out about her family’s harrowing journey to warn others.

Sophie Gilbert, who is speaking out to raise awareness of dementia Picture: GREGG BROWNSophie Gilbert, who is speaking out to raise awareness of dementia Picture: GREGG BROWN

Becky Barletta, who lives in Hundon near Sudbury, used to light up a room – but now, she can hardly speak or feed herself.

The fun-loving newlywed should have been on the cusp of an exciting decade – and making plans for the future.

Instead, Becky was struck down by some devastating news that would change her life forever – doctors revealed she had frontotemporal dementia, a hereditary condition that would cause her to rapidly deteriorate.

Now her sister Sophie Gilbert, fresh from completing Ipswich’s first ever Memory Walk to raise awareness of dementia with her young family, said Becky is rapidly deteriorating.

According to her devastated family Becky, now 33, is rapidly deteriorating. Picture: SUPPLIED BY BECKY'S FAMILYAccording to her devastated family Becky, now 33, is rapidly deteriorating. Picture: SUPPLIED BY BECKY'S FAMILY

“Put it this way – she was talking last year, she was repeating a lot of the same stories,” the 31-year-old said. “Now she can hardly speak at all, she’s almost mute really.

“She might repeat a sound or two, but that’s about it.

“Her carers are having to feed her as well, it’s not that she can’t eat, it’s more that she’s having a lot more help to do things.

She added: “She’s still going on her walks but she’s a lot slower.

Sophie cutting the ribbon at the first ever Ipswich Memory Walk Picture: PAT STOCKLEYSophie cutting the ribbon at the first ever Ipswich Memory Walk Picture: PAT STOCKLEY

“It’s heartbreaking to see her deteriorate, we never thought it would be as rapid as this.

“The day before she was diagnosed she was still driving. To go from that to how she is now, it’s harrowing to see.”

Going forward as a family unit has been difficult, particularly as Becky’s future is so uncertain.

Doctors have given Becky between five to 10 years to live, though Sophie believes due to her sister’s rapid deterioration, it could be closer to five years.

Now 33, Becky was once a fun-loving newlywed with the world at her feet Picture: BECKY'S FAMILYNow 33, Becky was once a fun-loving newlywed with the world at her feet Picture: BECKY'S FAMILY

Her family are continuing to raise awareness to help find a cure for the illness – now the UK’s biggest killer.

Completing the Ipswich Memory Walk this weekend with husband Ben and children Emilia and Alfie, Sophie cut the ribbon and walked in honour of her sister.

She added: “It has been a hard year for Becky and the whole family.

“Anything we can do to raise money for research, provide care for people with dementia and help raise awareness is such a worthwhile thing to do.”

Becky Barletta, who was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia aged 31. Picture: SUPPLIED BY BECKY'S FAMILYBecky Barletta, who was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia aged 31. Picture: SUPPLIED BY BECKY'S FAMILY

To take part in a memory walk or organise your own, visit the Memory Walk website.

What is frontotemporal dementia?

Poor judgement, a loss of empathy and difficulty speaking are just some of the symptoms of hereditary condition frontotemporal dementia.

Sophie with her sister, Becky Picture: BECKY'S FAMILYSophie with her sister, Becky Picture: BECKY'S FAMILY

As Alzheimer’s Society research officer Tim Shakespeare explains, the illness causes damage to parts of the brain which are responsible for our behaviour, our emotional responses and our language skills.

This type of dementia is less common than other forms such as Alzheimer’s disease and predominantly affects younger people.

He said: “There are more than 42,000 people with young-onset dementia – which is anyone diagnosed under the age of 65 – in the UK.

“Being diagnosed at a younger age is likely to present a different set of challenges – for example the person may still be working, have financial commitments or dependent children.”

Becky Barletta, who was diagnosed with dementia when she was 31, pictured on her wedding day with her bridesmaids Picture: NICK READERBecky Barletta, who was diagnosed with dementia when she was 31, pictured on her wedding day with her bridesmaids Picture: NICK READER

He added: “It is great to hear that Sophie, her family and friends are uniting against dementia.”

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