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Former Perham mayor living with rare form of dementia

Former Perham, Minn., mayor and attorney Terry Karkela sits in a family portrait. WDAY

Just hours before another winter storm, Terry and Mary Karkela sit in their cozy lakeside Minnesota home outside Perham in western Minnesota.

The former Perham mayor and attorney and his wife, who is a popular teacher in the town of 3,420 people, had big plans for retirement, but a diagnosis for Terry a couple of years ago has changed everything.

After months of testing and doctoring, the attorney was diagnosed with Frontotemporal Dementia or FTD.

"Terry's dementia is frontal, which is the reasoning and decision making," said his wife. "It was so difficult to know, what is the next step, the next direction.

"As much as there are some dreams that won't come true together, we are moving along and trying to make the best of things. You re-focus," she said.

For Terry, it's a big adjustment. He must go to adult day care while his wife is at school teaching.

"I am dealing with it on a day-by-day basis," he said. And he just wasn't ready to give up that law practice.

"There are days I miss the practice of law, a lot," he said.

Mary is now is part of a group of caregivers from up and down U.S. Highway 10 in western Minnesota that meets twice a month and talks about FTD In hopes of helping other families and each other deal with something that changes them all.

For information on FTD, see www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia/types-of-dementia/front...

For information on the support group: mkarkela@perham.k12.mn.us