According to the Alzheimer’s Association of Ireland, there are more than 64,000 people with dementia in the country, and it is estimated that by 2050 the number will exceed 151,000. These are grim numbers indeed, and during World Alzheimer’s Month he aims to shine a light on the condition throughout September, raising awareness and reducing the stigma associated with it.
Most people with dementia are diagnosed after the age of 65, but some are diagnosed at an earlier age. This can have a devastating effect on their lives. Marguerite Keating, one of her 4,000 young people under the age of 65 living in Ireland, has the disease. She says the symptoms “slowly creeped in” and it was an incident at work that ultimately led her to seek medical advice.
“I didn’t notice anything at first, but in my early to mid-50s, my colleagues would often tell me that I was doing the same things over and over again,” she says. “I would look at my computer and wonder what I should be doing, but at first I thought nothing of it and that I was very busy.
“Then other things started to happen. I thought I was talking to someone else and started chatting.
“I was driving one day and the car started to slow down. Eventually, I was persuaded to go see someone to see if there was a problem.
She had been in trouble for months, but Marguerite, who has three adult daughters, didn’t think there was anything serious. She didn’t want to consider it.
“The doctor said she was going to do some tests and asked if I was confused a lot,” says the 59-year-old. I didn’t completely agree with her, she said I needed to be supervised, while I couldn’t go to the theater, teach music), drive a car, or sort out my problems.
“I didn’t want to be a burden on my daughter and grandchildren, so I decided that ending my life would be the kindest thing anyone could do.”
“I couldn’t believe what she was saying and was in complete denial. But I was left like that and heard nothing for nine months. Because I couldn’t actually work, I couldn’t get enough wages and social welfare just to live.
“Then I had a lumbar puncture and other tests, and on February 14, 2019, instead of Valentine’s Day flowers and cards, I was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I had just turned 55. So shocking, really. It was possible, don’t believe what I was told.
“The day I got my diagnosis, I remember coming home after the visit and being alone for a while. I didn’t want to be a burden on my grandchildren and I’m not the type to get depressed, but I decided the kindest thing for everyone would be to end my life.”
Luckily, despite being so depressed, the mum of three had a change of heart and asked for help instead. “After being really upset, I had a ‘fucking’ moment. I found the Alzheimer’s Association helpline in a brochure, so I called her helpline,” she says. “Since I had just been diagnosed, I spoke to the person who said he was thinking of taking his own life.
“She told me to imagine how it would affect my family. Grandchildren on the way, I was determined to persevere and live.”
“She called back a few times to check on me, but she said I was really okay and that there must be a lot of people feeling the same way I did after the diagnosis, so I decided to give my life a try.” Instead of finishing, I tried to help them.I never looked back when I made that decision.”
Marguerite, who lives in Cashel, joined the Alzheimer’s Association. She has helped “fight to get a blue parking permit” for people with dementia and supports others struggling with the condition.
She acknowledges that ASI Working Groups and Technical Libraries (Memory Technology Resource Rooms) have been set up by HSE across the country to share up-to-date information and devices to help people with dementia become as independent as possible. . And while she still has “episodes” every day, she’s learned to “not stress” about them and feels better now than she did years ago.
“My advice to anyone going through the same thing is to keep going. Don’t let it get over you and try to live life as positively as possible.
“I keep telling myself not to worry if I do something wrong these days because it’s just part of Alzheimer’s disease,” she says. This is horrible.. Like last week I couldn’t figure out how to use my Revolut card in a store so I asked the cashier to wait a bit and talk me through it my I called my daughter – the fact that the cashier was patient, made all the difference and everything went well.
“I also took a six-week course in the memory room, which was very helpful in improving my coping skills. I was given a clock that was calibrated to 2000. I also eat healthy, take vitamins, and go for a walk every day. I am trying to do the best I can. All of these things have really helped and most people who know me say they can’t believe I’m doing so much better than before I was diagnosed.
“My advice to others going through the same thing is to keep going. Don’t let it overwhelm you and try to live as positively as possible. But that doesn’t mean your life is over.”
Janet Dwyer, Assistant National Director of Change and Innovation, HSE Services for Older People, agrees, saying that raising awareness about dementia reduces stigma and keeps patients from feeling alone. says it can.
“September 2022 marks the 11th year of this pivotal global awareness campaign,” she says. “Knowing Dementia, Knowing Alzheimer’s, this year’s theme continues from the 2021 campaign, with a focus on diagnosis, dementia warning signs, and the ongoing impact of Covid-19 on the global dementia community. Focused.
“While the overall campaign raises awareness and understanding of dementia, HSE also encourages communities to take action to help, including those affected by the condition. Staying active and involved in life is essential for a person’s health and well-being, and local community support such as dementia cafes, men’s huts, choirs and walking groups can address this need. Rather than wait, I urge people to join a local community group and start their journey to promote brain health and general well-being.”
Dwyer said dementia can and does affect people of all ages, but the symptoms are often difficult to recognize. “Most people forget their names and where they put their keys, but with dementia memory loss is more severe,” she says. “Forgetfulness tends to get worse over time. People begin to struggle with work and simple tasks such as paying bills and finding directions. In later stages, dressing, bathing, walking, and recognizing family and friends. can be difficult.
“It’s always a good idea to discuss any concerns with your primary care physician. Your symptoms may not be due to dementia, but if they are, treatment can be started early and you can plan for the future.” You can give people the opportunity.
check out alzheimer.ie, hse.ieWhen Understand together.ie