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I’ve been diagnosed with younger onset dementia for four years now but looking back, the signs had been there even longer, at least two years before the official diagnosis came in 2012.
My symptoms first became apparent at work, prompting a colleague to call my wife Beverley out of concern. As I had already been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from my time in the Navy, we assumed the new extra pressures at work had aggregated this.
However, after trying new PTSD medication, undergoing treatment for severe sleep apnea and lots of other testing, it was confirmed I had Alzheimer’s disease. Even after all this testing, it still came as a shock. We were hoping they would find a tumour or something that could be fixed.
I kept telling myself it was better than having cancer. I don’t get too down about it, and always try to stay positive. Having a good sense of humour helps!
When we tell people about my condition, many of them didn’t believe us. They only really associate Alzheimer’s disease with severe memory loss.
We have a very supportive family and a great group of friends. We are lucky, but seem to be in the minority. There are other people we know with the disease whose family and friends don’t visit or socialise any more. I guess they just don’t know how to react.
Following diagnosis, Beverley took early retirement, so we could enjoy the time we have left together, as we didn’t know how quickly the disease would progress. I’ve been fortunate because my dementia has progressed slowly. It’s been about four years since the diagnosis. I’m 67 now, I’m still sociable and I still drive, which is important to me.
I do, however, struggle with some day-to-day tasks. For instance, the other day I realised I’d put both collars on the same dog! Fortunately for me, I have Bev as my back-up brain. I’m so lucky to have her. She organises everything and has been amazing.
I enjoy going to the footy with my sons. We are all strong supporters of Manly and Hawthorn. I also play lawn bowls and go on a monthly outing with the Touring Old Farts (a group of retired of men). We get to do all sorts of interesting things and I have lots of laughs with the guys. Plus, I have my two dogs to look after and walk each day.
Because of the lack of services for people living with younger onset dementia, particularly men, we teamed up with some people in the same situation as us, and started our own social club. We meet every week for games, music and crafts.
We love to socialise, and try to get out and do something every day. You can’t just sit at home and wait for life to find you … you have to get out there and find life!