A mother has told of her 22-year-old son’s agonizing 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 spoke and moved slowly.
Doctors compared his brain to that of a 70-year-old person.
His mother, Sam Fairbairn, 47, said he began offering only three-word answers to questions and had a blank expression when spoken to.
Andre now depends on his mother to care for him 24 hours a day, helping him bathe him, prepare his food and drink, and choose his clothes.
Mother Sam Fairbairn, 47, said Andre Yarham, 22,’s answers to family members’ questions were becoming three-word answers and he had a blank expression when they spoke to him.
Andre, who is an avid wrestling fan, grew up playing rugby and football at school. He liked to play Xbox games like Fifa and Call of Duty with his friends. He also had a job at Lotus Cars, a luxury car manufacturer in Norwich, replacing car headliners, the roof material of vehicles.
Around 50,000 people in England are thought to be living with early-onset dementia, when telltale symptoms begin before the age of 65.
However, less than two-thirds have been diagnosed, suggesting that tens of thousands of people are unaware they have this memory-robbing disease.
Fairbairn said it was a “devastating blow” to learn her son had dementia and said it had been very hard on the family.
She said: “I pick out Andre’s clothes, help him bathe because he doesn’t remember what to do in the shower, and prepare his food and drink.”
‘Normally he would go to the store in the morning to buy a Monster, but now if he went he would forget why he was there.
“We’re not even sure if he understands what’s going on; it’s very hard to say how he feels right now.”
Mrs Fairbairn had to leave her job as a coach driver to become her son’s full-time carer.
She said: “When people talk about early-onset dementia they automatically think of someone as young as 40, but it can affect anyone at any age.”
“We have talked to him about everything that is happening, especially the hospital appointments,” he added.
‘Whether he can understand it and process it, we really don’t know.
‘He doesn’t give us anything at all.
“Being told that their 22-year-old son has dementia was a devastating blow.”
An avid wrestling fan, Yarham grew up playing rugby and football at school. He liked to play Xbox games like Fifa and Call of Duty with his friends.
He also had a job at Lotus Cars, a luxury car manufacturer in Norwich, replacing car headliners, the roof material of vehicles.
But all his perspectives changed when he began to have difficulty getting through a day at work.
She left her job after only six months, and her mother explained that she was having trouble getting through the day, but that she didn’t feel like she could tell them what was wrong.
It was around this time, in November 2022, that Ms Fairbairn noticed her speech starting to slow down.
She said: “He was always talkative, even as a child and I always told him to “shut up.”
‘But it got to the point where you would ask him a question and you would only get a three or four word answer.
‘He moved very slowly and when you asked him to do something, you would look blank and then he would walk away as if you hadn’t asked him a question.
The news of Andre’s (pictured right) early-onset dementia has been “very hard” for Sam (pictured center), her husband Alastair, 60 (pictured left) and his youngest son Tyler, 21 (pictured right).
Although there is no cure for dementia, the family has now pinned their hopes on medical trials and created a wish list for Andre to complete.
“Now I think you could probably turn on your Xbox, but after that you would just have no idea what to do next.”
Having previously worked with adults with learning disabilities, Ms Fairbairn noticed traits of autism in her son and decided to have him tested.
“He scored high 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 all this was going on, I knew something still wasn’t quite right.”
Mr. Yarham was sent for an MRI in October 2023, but the scans revealed an additional diagnosis of autism.
He had frontal lobe atrophy, which causes that part of the brain to shrink.
It usually occurs in older people.
Mrs Fairbairn, who said her son was diagnosed with early-onset dementia, added: “The consultant said it was like looking into the brain of a 70-year-old.”
Early-onset dementia can cause problems with behavior and language, and people with young-onset dementia are more likely to have problems with movement, walking, coordination or balance than memory loss in the early stages, according to the Alzheimer’s Society.
Yarham underwent a lumbar puncture, a type of test that removes cerebrospinal fluid from the spine for diagnostic testing, and was referred to Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge, where tests are being carried out to find the cause of his dementia.
Fairbairn, married to Alastair, 60, said the diagnosis has been “very difficult” for the family to cope with. Yarham has a younger brother, Tyler (21).
Although there is no cure for dementia, the family has pinned their hopes on medical trials and created a wish list for Yarham to complete.
Ms Fairbairn said: “Although they may not work for Andre, any research they do could help someone else in the future and we will accept that.”
“There is very, very little chance of Andre getting better, but doctors have told us to expect a shorter life expectancy.
“They didn’t say what that life expectancy is, so we want to make the most of it.”
Yarham now enjoys going for drives with his mother in their Volkswagen Polo and watching wrestling or Peaky Blinders.
Their wish list has raised over £500 of their £1,000 target in GoFundMe and will hopefully include trips to Shrek’s Adventure in London and the Harry Potter Studio Tour.