Younger on­set

Alzheimer’s pa­tient pos­i­tive for the fu­ture.

Ellenbrook Advocate - - FRONT PAGE - Lisa Thomas

WHEN Diann Bates was di­ag­nosed with younger on­set Alzheimer’s three years ago at the age of 47, she de­cided that she would not let the dis­ease would not de­fine her.

Ms Bates re­flected on her di­ag­no­sis dur­ing De­men­tia Aware­ness Month, which runs through­out Septem­ber. She said she con­tin­ued to re­main pos­i­tive about her fu­ture af­ter re­cently cel­e­brat­ing her 50th birth­day.

Although Ms Bates’ of­fi­cial di­ag­no­sis came three years ago, her jour­ney with Alzheimer’s dis­ease be­gan around seven years ago when she first no­ticed her symp­toms.

“I would lose my car and for­get to pick up the kids,” she said.

“The symp­toms were ini­tially fright­en­ing, but they could be put down to be­ing a busy mum, gen­eral stress and run­ning a busi­ness.

“I went to my GP think­ing some­thing was wrong and she told me that I may be work­ing too hard run­ning my own busi­ness, not sleep­ing and eat­ing prop­erly and to come back if I kept hav­ing prob­lems.”

Af­ter the prob­lems con­tin­ued over the next year, Ms Bates went back to her GP, who con­firmed that some­thing was not right and re­ferred her to a spe­cial­ist.

Af­ter years of tests and med­i­ca­tion, it was con­firmed that she had younger on­set Alzheimer’s.

“I had never known any­one who was my age who had Alzheimer’s. Ev­ery­one I had known with the dis­ease was el­derly, so I found it dif­fi­cult to imag­ine how my life would be in 10 years time,” she said.

“It wasn’t a huge shock when I was of­fi­cially di­ag­nosed be­cause it had taken a few years, so the dis­ease had wo­ven its way into my ev­ery­day life.”

The di­ag­no­sis did mean Ms Bates had to sell her mar­ket­ing busi­ness and re­tire a year ago. She said los­ing the so­cial as­pect of her day-to-day life was chal­leng­ing.

“That’s prob­a­bly the most con­fronting thing, is when ev­ery­one leaves for work or school and I think about what I’m going to do with my day,” she said.

She said she did not let neg­a­tive thoughts en­ter her mind and felt grate­ful ev­ery day for the life she has.

“I try to stay as pos­i­tive as I can and when I take my dog for a walk each day I think about how lucky I have been to have had a great ca­reer, have a great fam­ily, trav­elled and have a roof over my head,” she said.

“I’m not in any pain and my life is pretty great – stuff hap­pens, but there is no point wal­low­ing in it, you’ve just got to get on with it.”

Ms Bates said tech­nol­ogy had been her friend, us­ing apps on her phone to plan out her day, re­mind her of plans and map where she had parked the car to make leav­ing the house less of a daunt­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Alzheimer’s WA chief ex­ec­u­tive Rhonda Parker said De­men­tia Aware­ness Month was im­por­tant to raise aware­ness and sup­port for the 34,000 West Aus­tralians liv­ing with a form of de­men­tia.

“With the num­ber of peo­ple with de­men­tia in our com­mu­nity set to rise dra­mat­i­cally over the next 30 years, re­spon­sive com­mu­ni­ties are going to be in­creas­ingly im­por­tant,” she said.

“Many peo­ple with de­men­tia re­port that they of­ten feel stig­ma­tised by the di­ag­no­sis and that friends, fam­ily, neigh­bours or busi­nesses treat them dif­fer­ently or may shy away from contact with them.

“This year’s theme ‘You Are Not Alone’ raises aware­ness of the stigma of de­men­tia and en­cour­ages peo­ple liv­ing with de­men­tia and their car­ers to reach out.”

Ms Bates said the Alzheimer’s As­so­ci­a­tion and con­nect­ing with other peo­ple with the dis­ease had helped her, as well as not think­ing too far ahead.

“I have taken up art and draw­ing, which is dif­fi­cult, but I love it – it chal­lenges me and is good for my brain,” she said

“I try not to think for­ward too much. I live in the mo­ment and am pos­i­tive and think about all the bless­ings in my life.”

Diann Bates was di­ag­nosed with younger on­set Alzheimer’s when she was 47.

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