Posted 10 November, 2006
I live in Falkirk and was diagnosed with early on-set dementia nine years ago. I live with my wife Betty who is my full time carer.
My journey with dementia began on top of a roof. Despite being a self employed stone mason and roofer for 12 years I found that I was coming home and doing silly things without realising. If I had been paid cash for a job my wife would ask me for the money and I would have no idea what she was talking about. She would go out to the car and find the money there. It then got the point where I could no longer sit down at night to read the plans and order materials to organise my work in advance.
The final crunch came when I was working on the roof of my local GP’s house and I suddenly fell off. Thankfully the doctor appeared around the corner at that moment and took me to the clinic at his house. It was the GP who suggested that I should get a brain scan and it was the scan that diagnosed me with grand mal epilepsy, which was later followed by a diagnosis of vascular dementia.
My first reaction to the diagnosis was to become angry and withdraw into myself. I was introduced to a nurse but that didn’t help me at all. I felt that she constantly spoke down to me and was patronising.
The turning point was when I was put in touch with Alzheimer Scotland and the Joint Dementia Initiative. A woman called Sheena came into my life and that was the best thing that ever happened to me. Sheena put me in touch with various support groups and a befriender called Neil who I now go out with twice a week.
With the right kind of support in place, my anger has been turned into positive energy and I am getting more involved by talking at conferences, lobbying politicians and being involved in research on respite care, something I feel very passionate about.
Project workers, befrienders and groups have all helped me along the way. But your own positive attitude towards the problem is the most important. If you take the bull by the horns and challenge dementia head on, you’re half way there. To me, it’s all down to determination – get on with your life and make the most of what you’ve got.