03/04/2017 10:26 BST

Teacher Becomes One Of Youngest To Die From Dementia At 40 Years Old

Gareth Wilmot was diagnosed at just 35 years old.

A family have spoke of their devastation after their son became one of the youngest people to die from dementia - at just 40 years old.  

Gareth Wilmot passed away on Monday after a five year battle with frontotemporal dementia, a savage and rapidly-advancing form of the disease. 

He was hit with the degenerative illness at 35 years old - it usually affects patients between the ages of 45 - 65. 

Gareth Wilmot. 

Frontotemporal dementia occurs when nerve cells in the frontal and/or temporal lobes of the brain die.

Gareth’s parents Lesley, 66 and Graham, 65, from Barnsley, South Yorks., have paid tribute to their “showman” of a son. 

Mum, Lesley, said: “Gareth was diagnosed five years ago, we were very naive at that time. 

“He was originally diagnosed with depression, which I feel the doctors thought was more common for someone of his age. 

“We took him home and tried to pinpoint the problem. It was only as the illness progressed that alarm bells started ringing. 

“The effect on the family was devastating, he was a completely different person. 

“He used to have three baths a night, wore lots of aftershave, he was a spotless person. 

“Once it kicked in, he struggled to wash and we used to have to stand at the door to make sure he was having a shower. He lost all of his weight and was skin and bones.” 

His father Graham said the disease took a hold of his son. 

The frontal lobes of the brain, found behind the forehead, deal with behaviour, problem-solving, planning and the control of emotions. An area of usually the left frontal lobe also controls speech. 

Over time, as more and more nerve cells die, the brain tissue in the frontal and temporal lobes shrinks. 

Gareth Wilmot as a child.

Graham, a retired mechanical fitter, said: “As the illness progressed, Gareth started to lose his speech and was unable to speak. He started to refuse food and drink. 

“It is horrible to see an old person like that, never mind your own son. 

“The diagnosis is so final, a fuse starts burning. You don’t know how long that fire will burn. 

“It destroys you.” 

Gareth was a teacher of children with behavioural problems and lived happily with a partner prior to his diagnosis. 

His parents moved him back into the family home when his state started to deteriorate. 

Gareth attended Arden School of Theatre at Manchester University. 

His mother Lesley spoke of his passion for theatre and arts. 

On one occasion, Lesley recalls that Gareth was in a production at the metrodome. 

“When we went to see Gareth backstage, we bumped into Brian Glover and Brian Blessed,“ Lesley said. 

“They said he would go far and that my son was a star. It hurts me to say that they were wrong.” 

A clear comfort to the family was the memories that they shared with Gareth. 

His father Graham said: “When Gareth graduated, he was the final person to be called up. 

“He got a huge cheer from the audience, everybody loved him. He was a showman. His friends thought the world of him.” 

Gareth was moved to Havenfield care home for the final stages of his life and his family said they couldn’t thank the staff enough. 

Lesley said: “We have this massive hole to fill now, a huge void to fill. 

“Havenfield care home were brilliant to us throughout. 

“Gareth’s brother Matthew was there with him when he passed. 

“Matthew’s final words to Gareth were ‘brothers to the end.’” 

The family have took part in many fundraising events with Gareth in the last five years, including memory walks. 

Some of the students that Gareth was teaching unknowingly bumped into his mother Lesley on the walk. 

They told her they were ‘walking for Mr Wilmott’ and Graham said this was typical of the man that he was in the community. 

Graham said: “People with dementia tend to lose friends but his stuck by them. 

“His funeral will be a celebration of his life. We have invited all of his family and friends, I’m hoping they can all fit in the venue. 

“We have told people that they can’t wear black. 

“I know my outfit already, I’m going to be wearing a baseball jersey and red high top trainers. 

“Gareth loved DC comics and one of his friends is hoping to go as Wonder-woman. His friends were brilliant.”

The parents made the harrowing decision to donate Gareth’s brain and spinal cord in the hope that they can help with future research into the disease. 

They have reached out online to try and find families in similar situations. 

The family believe that support groups and help is out there and they want to reach out to anyone they may be able to help or spread information about the torturous disease. 

Lesley said: “If we help one other person or family, then that is comfort to us. 

“We hope that it leaves a lasting legacy.” 

Early Symptoms of Dementia