DEMENTIA SUFFERERS Heartbreak as my husband changed in front of my eyes
to acute hospitals,” added Dr Hayo, who has been a nurse for 38 years.
“We want the entire family to live as well as possible with the diagnosis and we work to build resilience and coping strategies for them.
“There is an urgent need for more nurses and any fundraising would allow us to fund a nurse to help a local authority start the service and see what a difference it makes, said Dr Hayo. “It would also help us run the helpline which is open to anyone.”
Awareness of dementia increased in May when it was revealed that Carry On star Barbara Windsor had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. A number of other famous names have spoken of their devastation at loved ones being diagnosed with the condition.
Comedian David Baddiel made a documentary to show the reality of his father’s life with Pick’s disease, a rare form of dementia. Hollywood star Carey Mulligan told how her grandmother fought Alzheimer’s for 16 years.
Dementia has 200-plus sub-types but Alzheimer’s is the most widespread, affecting 60 per cent of those over 65 who have been diagnosed.
For help visit dementiauk.org, ring the helpline on 0800 888 6678 or email [email protected]mentiauk.org
Text DMUK18 £5 to 70070, visit dementiauk.org/donate or send a cheque to Dementia UK, 7th Floor, One Aldgate, London, EC3N 1RE
THE EARLY signs were difficult to pick up and Diana Clark put husband Lester’s irritability and lack of motivation down to stress due to changes at work. She never considered dementia.
“He was 59 – too young,” said Diana. “He had a heart attack in 2011 and didn’t want to go back to work. His behaviour changed but, with hindsight, it changed a few years before that, in about 2008.
“It was nothing major but you put these things down to life and getting older.”
Lester’s once pin-sharp memory was deteriorating and he struggled with putting shopping away because he didn’t know where things went and his driving became erratic.
“He called one day to say he couldn’t find the car and believed it had been stolen,” said Diana, a former legal secretary. In 2014 Lester was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia and rapidly isolated himself at home in Romford, Essex, becoming hugely frustrated.
“It was terrible,” said Diana. “We met when I was 19 and Lester was 22 and have been married 40 years but our relationship changed totally. We weren’t a couple any more. Dementia just tears people apart. You watch someone change before you and feel guilt that you can’t stop it happening.”
The devastated family were lucky enough to live in an area with an Admiral
Nurse, Sam Ponting, who added them to her bulging caseload, helping them navigate complex care funding and cope with an evaporating marriage.
Lester, a council tax inspector and former driving instructor, became distressed about not being able to drive and then would only wear one particular shirt and pair of trousers.
“These were very tough things for everyone to deal with and we all had to work together,” said Sam, part of the Havering Memory Service at North East London NHS Foundation Trust.
“Practical solutions really help but it is about being there for the family all the time, understanding them and helping them deal with the psychological stress that comes with dementia.”
Diana, who has a son, Nick, 32, and grandson, Dylan, two, said: “It would have been a nightmare without Sam. I wouldn’t have been able to cope and I don’t know where I would have turned.
“When Lester was diagnosed they dumped a load of leaflets on me which is the last thing you want. We were so lucky to get Sam. It’s a cliché but she is my rock and the practical and emotional support she gives me is brilliant.”
Lester’s dementia worsened and after a distressing Christmas where he was constantly trying to leave the house, it was decided to place him in a care home.
“It took a year to find somewhere because he was under 65 and the rules are very complex,” said Diana. “But Sam guided me through that.”
Sam, an Admiral Nurse for the past eight years of her 31 years in nursing, said: “Diana knows she can call me and we are always there for her and that is the most important thing.”
suchA loss of function short-term as driving skills, writing and memory, reading, also include a arithmetic. It can such as deafness physical illnessThere can and/or sight problems. or personality also be behaviour getting changes and difficulty and coping on with people with regular social functions.
A HELPING HAND: Diana, above left, with Admiral Nurse Sam, who helped when husband Richard’s dementia deteriorated. Left, Diana with Lester before the dementia took its toll
FIGHT: Carey’s grandmother suffered